Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

First Rate: Receivers/Tight Ends

Several quality receiving corps dot the Irish schedule in ’16. Wake Forest, Miami and Temple, however, will have to find answers at quarterback to take full advantage of the pass-catching talent.

13) Navy (WR-Brandon Colon/WR-Tyler Carmona)
Jamir Tillman, with 91 catches for 1,626 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career, is gone. That leaves no one of distinction at wide receiver for the Midshipmen, which really doesn't matter, does it? Tyler Carmona, primarily a blocker lining up at tight end, had six receptions last year, as did Brandon Colon.

12) Michigan State (WR-Felton Davis/WR-Trishton Jackson)
The Spartan receiving corps was decimated with the loss of RJ Shelton (53-779-14.9-5), who lived off shovel passes, tight end Josiah Price (38-387-10.2-5) and wideout Monty Madaris (24-310-12.9-1). Now add the loss of Donnie Corley (33-453-13.7-3), who was dismissed from the team, and Michigan State is piecing together a pass-catching corps.

Felton Davis is the leading returning receiver with just 12 catches and one touchdown. Trishton Jackson (5-89-17.8-1) emerged in the spring. The Spartans may need held from freshman Hunter Rison, the son of former Michigan State standout Andre Rison.

11) North Carolina (WR-Austin Proehl/WR-Thomas Jackson/WR-Jordan Cunningham/WR-Anthony Ratliff-Williams/WR-Juval Mollette)
No team on the Irish slate lost more production from their wideouts, other than perhaps USC, which, per usual, has prospects waiting in the wings. The Tar Heels, minus their quarterback as well, will have a difficult time replacing fourth-round draft choices Ryan Switzer (96-1,112-11.6-6) and Mack Hollins (16-309-19.3-4), not to mention Bug Howard (53-827-15.6-8).

The most experienced returning receiver is Austin Proehl (43-597-13.9-3). A bunch of young pass-catchers (listed above) will have to emerge.

10) Boston College (WR-Michael Walker/WR-Jeff Smith/TE-Tommy Sweeney/TE-Charlie Callinan)
The top four receivers return in the two-tight end-based passing game led by Michael Walker (33-420-12.7-4) and Jeff Smith, a former Eagles quarterback. The tight end tandem of Tommy Sweeney (26-353-13.6-3) and Charlie Callinan (24-286-11.9-1) will seek synergy with a quarterback (Darius Wade) who played sparingly behind his predecessor (Patrick Towles).

9) Miami (Ohio) (WR-James Gardner/WR-Jared Murphy/TE-Ryan Smith/WR-Sam Martin)
Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin believes junior James Gardner (45-750-16.7-6) has a future in the NFL while Jared Murphy (43-552-12.8-5) put up comparable numbers last year.

The Redhawks will miss the big-play ability of Rokeem Williams, who averaged 19.3 yards per his 26 receptions, but tight end Ryan Smith (31-356-11.5-5) was one of three pass-catchers to score at least five touchdowns in '16. Sam Martin (19.1-yard average per seven catches) also has stretch-the-field ability.

8) Stanford (WR-Trenton Irwin/WR-J.J. Arcega-Whiteside/TE-Dalton Schultz/TE-Kaden Smith)
The most-modest passing game at Stanford in years – just 158 yards per game through the air in '16 – returns its top two receivers in Trenton Irwin (37-442-11.9-1) and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (24-379-15.8-5) while losing Michael Rector (32-367-11.5-3).

Look for Dalton Schultz (23-222-9.7-1) to emerge in the Stanford tight end tradition. He'll be joined at tight end by red-shirt freshman Kaden Smith. A couple of young speedsters -- Isaiah Brandt-Sims and Jay Tyler – should provide some dash on the outside.

7) Wake Forest (WR-Tabari Hines/TE-Cam Serigne/ WR-Cortez Lewis/WR-Alex Bachman/WR-Chuck Wade/WR-Scotty Washington)
The Demon Deacons' anemic offense should show signs of life in the passing game after averaging just 166 yards per game through the air. This is Dave Clawson's best wideout corps in four years with every top pass-catcher back.

The unit is led by wideout Tabari Hines (38-447-11.8-3) and tight end Cam Serigne (30-426-14.2-3). Serigne and wide receiver Cortez Lewis (32-415-13.0-1) battled through injuries in '16. Support should come from Alex Bachman (23-248-10.8-1) and Chuck Wade (24-245-10.2-1).

6) Georgia (WR-Terry Godwin/TE-Isaac Nauta/WR-Michael Chigbu/WR-Riley Ridley/WR-Javon Wims)
With the loss of top pass-catcher/fifth-round draft choice Isaiah McKenzie (44-633-14.7-7), the Bulldogs have an undistinguished receiving corps that should grow fairly rapidly with second-year quarterback Jacob Eason at the helm, not to mention the best one-two running back punch on the Irish schedule (Nick Chubb and Sony Michel).

Terry Godwin (38-397-10.4-0) is the top returning receiver, but didn't score a touchdown in '16. Tight end Isaac Nauta (29-361-12.4-3) is the second-leading receiver back with the most touchdowns scored through the air last year after McKenzie. Riley Ridley (12-238-19.8-2) has big-play ability. Former Notre Dame tight end recruit Jeb Blazevich remains in the picture.

5) Miami (WR-Ahmmon Richards/TE-Christopher Herndon/WR-Braxton Berrios/WR-Lawrence Cager)
Subtract quarterback/sixth-rounder Brad Kaaya, wide receiver/seventh-rounder Stacy Coley (63-754-12.0-9) and tight end/first-rounder David Njoku (43-698-16.2-8), and the Hurricanes have lost a ton of firepower in the passing game.

They'll still have a weapon in sophomore Ahmmon Richards, whose 49 receptions totaled 934 yards (19.1) – an NCAA record for freshmen. Christopher Herndon (28-334-11.9-2) will help bridge the gap at tight end in the absence of Njoku. Look for at least a couple freshmen in an impressive haul of wide receivers – led by Jeff Thomas and Mike Harley – to get plenty of opportunities, as will junior Darrell Langham and sophomore Lawrence Cager.

4) Temple (WR-Ventell Bryant/WR-Keith Kirkwood/WR-Adonis Jennings/WR-Brodrick Yancy)
Whoever wins the quarterback job replacing four-year starter Phillip Walker, he'll have a quality corps of receivers, led by Ventell Bryant (54-895-16.6-4), Keith Kirkwood (42-648-15.4-4), Adonis Jennings (27-474-17.6-4) and Brodrick Yancy (24-284-11.8-2), a transfer from Pittsburgh. Bryant posted quality numbers in '16 despite missing three games.

On paper, this unit deserves this high ranking. The quarterback situation will, however, cut significantly into the pass-catching numbers.

3) N.C. State (WR-Stephen Louis/WR-Jaylen Samuels/WR-Kelvin Harmon/WR-Jacobi Meyers/WR-JuMichael Ramos)
With another year under former Boise State quarterback Ryan Finley's belt, the Wolfpack return their top four pass-catchers, including Nyheim Hines, who has converted to running back with the loss of Matthew Dayes.

Big-play junior Stephen Louis (35-678-19.4-2) should be able to turn his impressive yards per reception into more touchdowns, joining Swiss Army knife Jaylen Samuels (55-565-10.3-7) in the passing game. JuMichael Ramos – back from an injury after totaling more than 800 yards prior to '16 – should help bridge the loss of Bra'Lon Cherry (39-434-14.5-3), as will Kelvin Harmon (27-462-17.1-5).

2) USC (WR-Deontay Burnett/TE-Daniel Imatorbhebhe/WR-Steven Mitchell/WR-Michael Pittman Jr./TE-Tyler Petite/WR-Jalen Greene)
Make no mistake, the Trojans lost considerable talent at wide receiver with the departure of second-round draft choice JuJu Smith-Schuster (70-914-13.1-10) and second-team all-Pac 12 Darreus Rogers (56-696-12.4-4).

But with quarterback Sam Darnold returning to throw to a corps of speedsters, the gap will be narrowed in short order. Deontay Burnett (56-622-11.1-7) leads the way with sophomore Daniel Imatorbhebhe (17-250-14.7-4) setting the pace at tight end, which is a deep and talented corps.

Steven Mitchell (24-226-9.4-1) saw action in just seven games in '16 before an ACL injury put him on the shelf. Sophomore Michael Pittman should step forward. Like Miami, the Trojans have a gaggle of freshmen receivers ready to make an impact.

1) Notre Dame (WR-Equanimeous St. Brown/TE-Alize Mack/WR-Kevin Stepherson/WR-C.J. Sanders/WR-Chris Finke/TE-Durham Smythe/WR-Miles Boykin/WR-Cameron Smith/WR-Freddy Canteen)
The wildcards for the Irish following the loss of Torii Hunter Jr. (38-521-13.7-3) are tight end/wideout Alize Mack and Kevin Stepherson (25-462-18.5-5). After a solid freshman season in '15, Mack was sidelined due to academics in '16. Stepherson turned in an impressive collegiate debut season and then spent the spring in limbo.

The given in the equation is Equanimeous St. Brown (58-961-16.6-9), who emerged as a standout during his sophomore season in '16. If Mack and Stepherson play to their potential and join St. Brown, the Irish will have the top pass-receiving corps on this list.

There should be plenty of help from tight end Durham Smythe (9-112-12.4-4), C.J. Sanders (24-293-12.2-2) and Miles Boykin (6-81-13.5-1) with Chris Finke (10-122-10.2-2) chipping in. Sophomore Chase Claypool may be a year away from making a bigger splash, although his athleticism should play well in Chip Long's offense.

Speaking of wildcards, grad transfers Cameron Smith (Arizona State) and Freddy Canteen (Michigan) could emerge ahead of a couple of the youngsters.

1. USC (6 – QB 1st, RB 3rd, WR/TE 2nd)
2. Georgia (9 – QB 2nd, RB 1st, WR/TE 6th)
3. Notre Dame (13 – QB 7th, RB 5th, WR/TE 1st))
4t. Stanford (14 – QB 4th, RB 2nd, WR/TE 8th)
4t. N.C. State (14 – QB 3rd, RB 8th, WR/TE 3rd)
6. Miami (21 – QB 10th, RB 6th, WR/TE 5th)
7. Temple (24 – QB 13th, RB 7th, WR/TE 4th)
8. Michigan State (25 – QB 9th, RB 4th, WR/TE 12th)
9. North Carolina (26 – QB 6th, RB 9th, WR/TE 11th)
10t. Miami (Ohio) (27 – QB 5th, RB 13th, WR/TE 9th)
10t. Wake Forest (27 – QB 8th, RB 12th, WR/TE 7th)
12. Boston College (33 -- QB 12th, RB 11th, WR/TE 10th)
13. Navy (34 – QB 11th, RB 10th, WR/TE 13th)


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