Let’s continue our trek through Pac-12 position groups and move now to wide receivers. Unlike running backs where the Pac-12 has a ton of returning talent, most of the top receivers graduated or opted to leave early for NFL. Of the four 1,000-yard receivers in 2018, only one is back in 2019, and only three of the top 10 are back. With so little experience, it is difficult to rate these groups, and unlike quarterback and running back, we will have to rely more on potential than proven experience.
This group was not great last year, and the top three receivers are all gone. This group was thin last year, and they might just be again this year. No returning receiver had more than 267 yards last year, and only one returning player had over 200 receiving yards.
11. Arizona Wildcats
The top three receivers from last year are gone. Devaughn Cooper is an interesting player. He had under 20 catches last year, but he averaged over 20 yards per catch, so he has big-play potential. Cedric Peterson and Stanley Berryhill III both have some limited experience as well (under 20 catches each). No player on the roster recorded 20 catches last year, but Arizona does have three players back with at least 200 receiving yards
The Cardinal had a beastly group of receivers last year, but most of them are gone. They lost JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who totaled over 1,000 yards last year and Trent Irwin, who had nearly 700 yards. Their top returning receiver is Osiris St. Brown, who totaled just over 200 receiving yards last year (this discounts tight ends, who we will cover in a different article). Connor Wedington missed most of last year, but he showed a lot of potential as a freshman.
9. UCLA Bruins
While UCLA’s top pass catcher from last year is gone (tight end Caleb Wilson), all of their top wide receivers are back, led by Theo Howard, who had 677 receiving yards last year. This was not a stellar group last year outside of Howard, but Chase Cota should improve in his sophomore year after gaining experience as a true freshman.
Losing N’Keal Harry is a huge blow, but there was talent behind him that will get their chances to shine this year with the transcendent talent off to the NFL.Brandon Aiyuk, who had 474 receiving yards last year, is the top returner for the Sun Devils. ASU has three receivers back who had at least 20 catches last season (plus running back Eno Benjamin who caught 35 passes).
7. Oregon Ducks
I went back and forth between ASU and Oregon, and I give the Ducks a slight edge due to the talented freshmen they have coming in. Like ASU, Oregon lost their best wide receiver from 2018 early to the NFL (Dillion Mitchell). Jaylon Redd will look to step into the No. 1 role with Mitchell gone. Oregon brings back three wide receivers who caught at least 20 passes, and they have multiple four-star recruits coming in to add depth to the group.
6. Utah Utes
Utah brings a lot back at the position with their top four wide receivers back and five of their top six (the only one gone is Siaosi Mariner, who transferred to the Utah State Aggies). The big question is how does leading receiver Britain Covey come back from a knee injury suffered in the Pac-12 Championship Game? Jaylen Dixon and Solomon Enis both played well as freshmen. Dixon proved to be the big play threat, averaging over 18 yards per catch on 32 catches. Enis, a former four-star recruit, should make a big jump in his sophomore season. He made some great catches as a true freshman last year and should see a bigger workload come his way in 2019.
The Beavers have two good receivers in Isaiah Hodgins and Trevon Bradford and then a lot of question marks. Can anyone step up behind those two to give the Beavers the needed depth at the position? Of the receivers back for 2019, Hodgins was second in receiver yards last year. Tyjon Lindsey, a former highly-touted recruit who transferred from the Nebraska Cornhuskers to OSU, could be an answer, but he has not lived up to his lofty recruiting ranking so far in his career, and both he and Bradford have suffered injuries during spring ball.
This group was inexperienced coming into the 2018 season, but they should be deep and talented in 2019. Aaron Fuller is one of the better receivers in the conference. Andre Baccellia played well last year. Ty Jones should finish his career strong and is a big-time threat in the red zone. UW should also have a very good group of redshirt freshmen, led by Marquis Spiker. How good those redshirt freshmen are will determine if this is a good or great group of receivers.
The numbers are obviously inflated because of how much the Cougars throw the ball, but this is a deep, experienced group. They play well in Mike Leach’s system, which tends to spread the ball around rather than feature one receiver heavily. WSU’s top four receivers are all back.
Laviska Shenault Jr. is the only returning 1,000-yard receiver in the conference. K.D. Nixon, who had over 600 yards receiving last year, is also back. The players behind them though is a bit questionable, and Shenault did most of his damage early in the year against weak defenses (though injuries did slow him later in the year). Shenault had the element of surprise to start last year, he will not have that this year. He is the best returning receiver in the conference, and along with Nixon, Colorado has a dynamic duo, but there is one group that I think is deeper.
1. USC Trojans
USC brings back the most talent at wide receiver. While they did not have a truly dominant wide receiver last year, Michael Pittman Jr. was one of the better receivers in the conference, and Amon-Ra St. Brown was the best freshman wide receiver in the conference. He will be in for a huge sophomore campaign. Velus Jones Jr. did put his name in the transfer portal and looks to be gone. St. Brown, Pittman, and Tyler Vaughns is probably the best starting group of wide receivers in the Pac-12, and they will see far more balls in 2019 with Graham Harrell’s air raid offense.