Here’s a 1-to-12 look at how the Pac-12 wide receivers shake out in our final preseason position group rankings.
1. Washington State: It starts with phenomenal production and route-running of Gabe Marks (104 catches, 1,192 yards, 15 touchdowns) and trickles down to an outstanding group that was built to thrive in this pass-happy system. River Cracraft and Robert Lewis are outstanding, and the running backs play a huge role in the receiving game as well (seven touchdowns combined for Keith Harrington and Jamal Morrow). Combine that with Luke Falk, who completed a Power-5 best 69.5 percent of his passes last year, and you have one of the most lethal passing games in the country.
2. USC: The Trojans should be feeling pretty good about their wide receiver corps. Not only do they have JuJu Smith-Schuster, who should be one of the best in the nation, Steven Mitchell Jr. and Darreus Rogers should provide quality depth. De’Quan Hampton and Isaac Whitney should also see catches, along with cornerback Adoree’ Jackson making the occasional appearance on offense. Whoever gets the starting-quarterback gig has some of the best receivers in the country to throw to.
3. Oregon: For a team that dominates the ground game, the Ducks have assembled quite the stable of wide receivers. Darren Carrington headlines the group, but there is plenty of speed, talent and experience with Dwayne Stanford and Charles Nelson. Never hurts to have an Olympian like Devon Allen coming back, either. If the TBD QB can get these guys the ball, they know exactly what to do with it. It'll also be nice to see Pharaoh Brown back on the field.
4. Arizona: The starting trio is solid – and maybe even a little underrated. The coaching staff has said that Trey Griffey is poised for a breakout season. Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips – who combined for 75 catches and six touchdowns last year – should see a bigger piece of the action. As is usually the case, the health of the quarterback will also dictate the production of the receivers.
5. Stanford: Michael Rector headlines the group after finishing second on the team (to running back Christian McCaffrey) with 34 catches for 559 yards and a team-high seven receiving touchdowns. Francis Owusu (13-175-1) and his magic hands, along with Trenton Irwin (12-150-0) also are back. Keep in mind the Cardinal’s offense spreads it around, so expect plenty of balls for McCaffrey and tight end Dalton Schultz as well.
6. Arizona State: The Sun Devils are solid here, with Tim White (57 catches, 633 yards and eight touchdowns) and Cameron Smith, who missed all of last season with an injury. The year before Smith caught 41 balls for 596 yards and six touchdowns. Really looking forward to seeing true freshman N’Keal Harry – regarded by some as the top prep wide receiver. It’s a quiet year in the league for tight ends, but keep an eye on Kody Kohl.
7. Washington: If John Ross has returned to form (and all indications are that he has), then this group goes from potential to potentially dangerous. Ross brings the speed, and Dante Pettis (30-414-1) and Brayden Lenius (26-307-3) bring experience working with quarterback Jake Browning. Don’t be surprised to see tight ends – most likely Darrell Daniels – play a larger role in 2016 as Browning starts to open up his understanding of the playbook. Depth beyond the starters, however, could be an issue.
8. UCLA: The big move was transitioning cornerback Ishmael Adams to the offensive side of the ball. That could prove to be a game-changer for a unit that has a lot of holes to fill from last year. Look for Darren Andrews, Eldridge Massington, Stephen Johnson and Kenneth Walker III all to contribute.
9. Colorado: Shay Fields (42-598-4) and Devin Ross (25-324-2) will look to fill the void left by the school’s all-time leading receiver, Nelson Spruce. Bryce Bobo didn’t find the end zone last season (24-207), but he adds some solid speed to the group. Worth noting too that Sean Irwin could prove to be an asset at tight end. He's big (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) and could prove a viable target in the red zone, over the middle and on third down.
10. California: The Bears lose some of the most productive receivers in school history and don't have much returning experience. But if Melquise Stovall and Demetris Robertson pan out the way they are projected to, the Bears could again have an explosive corps. Remember Sonny Dykes' first season? The receivers (Bryce Treggs, Kenny Lawler et al.) were bursting with potential. This group could have the same evolution. For now, Chad Hansen returns as the leading receiver from last year, when he had 19 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown.
11. Oregon State: There’s some experience with this group. Jordan Villamin (43-660-5) and Victor Bolden (46-461-3) did what they could in a year when the Beavers had just 10 passing touchdowns. The interesting twist will be seeing how former quarterback Seth Collins adjusts. No question, he’s a dynamic player who could bring a ton of athleticism to the position.
12. Utah: Tyrone Smith and Tim Patrick are listed as the starters. But Caleb Repp and Kyle Fulks looked strong in spring. Fulks will see his time increase as Cory Butler-Byrd continues to serve his indefinite suspension. With a new quarterback and a new running back (remember, this is a run-first offense with an exceptional offensive line) the pressure will be on the receivers to produce. Coach Kyle Whittingham has called Utah’s passing attack his team’s Achilles' heel.