After watching countless hours of film on incoming recruits, most of whom will not see the field in 2008, I realized two very important things. First I need to seek professional help, as my obsession for college football has reached an all-time high (low?). Second we need to put this puppy to bed as I’m sure writing this much about 17 and 18-year olds is a felony in some states. So we do just that with the wide receiver and tight end rankings. Keep in mind that JUCOs and Prep school players will be broken down in a separate piece. That is if my wife doesn’t break my laptop between now and then. If there is one recurring theme in this year’s class of wideouts it is size. Very few of the highly rated recruits measure in at under 6-2, with most reaching 6-4 and beyond. Naturally bigger receivers are going to lack the game breaking speed that we often look for. In the potential impact players I’ve tried to highlight a few guys that have some speed that separates them from the countless other oak trees.
Top Wide Receivers that Could Make an Impact in 2008
WR Julio Jones, Alabama Head coach Nick Saban was able to put together quite the class. The crown jewel of the class is Julio Jones, a big physical receiver that has the size and ability to come in and play right away. What separates the 6-4 215lb Jones from the other talented wide receivers in this class is his footwork, pass blocking and crisp route running. These are three things that are often overlooked and keep other young wide outs from seeing the field early. From a physical standpoint he looks like a taller version of Arrelious Benn. Like Benn, expect to see Jones on the field early for the Tide.
WR DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss - Keeping with this year’s theme, Brown is a huge receiver at 6-6 210lbs. He also has very good open field moves and speed for a big receiver. The fact that this top recruit will be playing against C-USA defenders boosts his stock considerably. However (as you probably already guessed), Brown has some work to do to get qualified. If he does, he will be a must have in almost every league.
WR/TE Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh - We’re giving Baldwin high marks because of his potential to see the field early at multiple positions. Pitt could use a boost to the passing game and Baldwin has the size to play right away. In fact, at 6-6 230lbs he could slide over from WR and become a pass catching threat at tight end.
WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame - Sans the growing pains at quarterback and the problems on the offensive line, there was probably no bigger need on the Notre Dame offense than playmakers at the wide receiver spot. The Irish bring in three to go along with last year’s top receiving recruit Duval Kumara. Floyd is probably the most electric of the bunch as he attacks the football and has good acceleration after the catch. Based on the offensive talent Weis has been bringing in, the Irish could soon be scoring multiple offensive touchdowns a game. Look for Floyd to see immediate playing time.
WR A.J. Green, Georgia - Green is one of the top wide receiver recruits in the nation, and Georgia could use a boost to their passing game. At 6-4 185 lbs, Green is a tall rangy receiver that can catch any ball thrown within his vicinity. He is very good at going up and getting the ball, which is a valuable trait to have in the red zone. I don’t know if Green is as polished and ready to play as some of the others on our list, and he appears to lack the overall speed of a game breaker. However this is nitpicking a bit as Green can clearly play.
WR Frankie Hammond Jr., Florida - Hammond is one of the few wide outs that stood out from the rest, even though his recruiting ranking is not as high as some of the others on our list. He has the speed and the ability to stop on a dime and make people miss. He is also a talented kick returner. Hammond is only listed at a buck fifty but you wouldn’t know it the way he attacks the football in traffic and stiff-arms tacklers. Florida once again brings in a class that is loaded with speed and Hammond might be the best of the bunch.
WR DeSean Hales, Texas - The Longhorns bring in several top wide receiver recruits; it is Hales however that has caught my eye. Hales is a versatile athlete that played both wide receiver and running back in high school. In addition he returned kicks. So you guessed it, Hales has some speed. He is a nice departure from the endless amounts of big wide receiver targets in this year’s class. With the loss of Limas Sweed and Nate Jones, Hales could see some early action.
WR DeVier Posey, Ohio State - Based on the performances in the last two national championship games, it is safe to say the Buckeyes could use another game breaker or two on offense. I’m just not sure Posey is it. Posey is a solid kick returner and very good possession receiver. He is very smooth and has good size. Based on these traits, he’ll likely see the field early. But does he have the speed to get rid of the Big Ten stigma?
WR Keshawn Martin, Michigan State - Fred Smith might be the top rated recruit for the Spartans but we’ve had the luxury to watch Martin’s video and all we can say is keep an eye on him. Playing quarterback his senior year, Martin flew under the recruiting radar until his video hit the streets in November. Martin has incredible open field speed and agility. There are two Michigan State recruits that have blown me away when I watched their video. The first was Javon Ringer, and we all know what he can do. The second is Keshawn Martin. We are not sure how he will fit in to the offense next year or how many touches he will get. Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham are the most likely starters this fall, but keep and eye on Keshawn and fellow recruit Fred Smith.
WR Darryl Stonum, Michigan - If you haven’t noticed by now Michigan has a lot of needs on offense, making them great candidates to plug in new recruits in 2008. How much a guy like Stonum or any other receiver will catch the ball in Rich Rodriguez’s offense is a concern. However, Brian’ preseason sleeper pick from West Virginia, Darius Reynaud, finished with 836 total yards and 13 touchdowns last year. Someone is going to catch the football for Rich Rodriguez next year and it could be Stonum who has a good combination of size and speed.
WR Marvin Jones, Cal - Cal has gapping holes at wide receiver with the losses of DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan. Jones has the speed and agility to make people miss in the open field as well as get deep. Jones will get a look simply because of the losses.
Keep an Eye One
WR Aldarius Johnson, Miami (Fl) - Good size and speed.
WR Tommy Streeter, Miami(Fl) - A Plaxico Burress clone.
WR Davon Johnson, Miami(Fl) - Smaller, faster, change-of-pace receiver from Johnson and Streeter. In all Miami brings in six receivers. What does that tell you?
WR Kemonte Bateman, Arizona State - Tall rangy, good deep ball threat. The Sun Devils haven’t had an impact wide out in a few years. WR Dan Buckner, Texas - Big receiver that could see early PT with the losses of Limas Sweed and Nate Jones. On campus early.
WR Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M - Big kid that should fit in well in the West Coast offense. On campus early. WR Tavarres King, Georgia - Less size than A.J. Green but better speed. On campus early.
WR Fred Smith, Michigan State - Deep ball threat that should see early PT at wide receiver with Devin Thomas leaving early for the NFL.
WR Jameel Owens, Oklahoma - Another big physical wide receiver that can move well in open space. Oklahoma loses Malcolm Kelly but returns a talented core of receivers.
WR Josh Jarboe, Oklahoma - A little less size than Owens but with a touch more deep ball speed.
WR DeJaun Miller, Oklahoma - Yet another big physical wide receiver for the Sooners. Are they trying to tell us something? 6-6 jump ball specialist.
WR Brice Butler, USC - Fluid wide receiver that is good after the catch. A lot of wide receiver options at USC.
WR Chris Tolliver, LSU - Good speed and can return kicks. LSU has several talented young receivers on the roster.
WR Rod Wilks, Tennessee - Multitude of options at Tennessee will likely keep Wilks from seeing the field early.
WR Kerry Boykins, Maryland - Deep ball threat with excellent hands. Daruis Hayward-Bey has a lock on one of the starting spots, but Terps could use someone to complement him.
WR Kenny Tate, Maryland - Physically mature athlete that could play multiple positions for Ralph Freidgen.
WR Kevin Dorsey, Maryland - Quarterback/wide receiver that will get a chance at wide receiver for the Terps. WR T.J. Lawrence, Florida - Good combination of size and speed. The Gators lose Andre Caldwell.
WR Omarius Hines, Florida - Solid overall receiver.
WR Deion Walker, Notre Dame - Tall rangy wide receiver. Notre Dame is in need of an infusion of talent at wide receiver. WR John Goodman, Notre Dame - Another tall rangy wide receiver for the Irish.
WR Marquan Jones, Clemson - The six foot speedster is on campus early and could provide a spark to the deep passing game.
Tight Ends to Watch
TE Blake Ayles, USC - Very athletic for a big man. Fred Davis proved to be a solid outlet for USC last year, can Ayles step in and do the same?
TE Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame - At 6-6, Rudolph is a huge target. Also very fluid for a big fella. With John Carlson moving on, the Irish are in need of a pass catching threat at tight end.
TE Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State - A wide receiver in high school, Stoneburner will most likely play TE at Ohio State. Not surprisingly Stoneburner is the fastest and most athletic of the bunch, but might lack the size to play right away.
TE Spencer Ladner, Cal - Cal has not been known as a tight end factory, but that could change when Ladner arrives on campus. A big physical receiver that will win every jump ball thrown his way.
TE Andrew Jones, Missouri - A solid pass catching tight end prospect that could see quick action with the departure of Martin Rucker. We’ve all seen how valuable Mizzou tight ends are over the last few years. Wide receiver is probably the hardest position of them all to scout and predict. The sheer volume of the amount of incoming recruits makes it impossible to cover everyone. The above is just a snap shot (a 40+ player snapshot) of some of the top prospects -- guys to keep an eye on as we get closer to August 30th. We’ll continue updating our lists as we head into spring ball and beyond.