Youngstown State returns leading receiver Christian Bryan. Bryan, a graduate of Norwin, finished with who led the team with 46 receptions for 722 yards and 6 touchdowns. Jelani Berassa also returns, after finishing second on the team behind Bryan with 37 catches for 552 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Cincinnati might be looking for a new quarterback, but whoever is throwing the ball will have leading receiver Anthony McClung back. McClung led the Bearcats with 49 catches for 683 yards and 6 touchdowns. Second-leading receiver Kenbrell Thompkins also returns, after finishing with 44 catches for 538 yards and 2 scores. Just to recap, in both of Pitt's first two games, they will face the top two receiving tandem from the 2011 for each opponent.
The good news for the Virginia Tech Hokies is that they return their all-everything quarterack Logan Thomas. The bad news is that Thomas needs to find a couple of new go-to guys. Virginia Tech loses leading receiver Danny Coale (60 catches, 904 yards, 3 TD), who is now in camp with the Dallas Cowboys. The Hokies have another receiver off to the NFL in Jarrett Boykin. Boykin, now with the Green Bay Packers, finished with 61 catches for 761 yards and 5 touchdowns. Coale and Boykin were responsible for more than half of the Hokies' receiving yards last year. Waiting in the wings are seniors Marcus Davis and D.J. Coles. Davis led the team with 17 yards a catch last season, while Coles had a career best 480 yards on 36 catches, with 3 scores. Keep an eye on four-star signee Joel Caleb. The Hokies have four players with at least 30 catches last year, and with the loss of the top two, there's room and anted for Caleb to make an impact.
Gardner-Webb is also looking for a new receiver, even though their strength is with the running game. Leading receiver James Perry III led the team with 42 catches for 590 yards and 1 touchdown, and is now graduated. The Runnin' Bulldogs may get a bit of a boost here. Marquis Sanders was granted a sixth year of eligibility. Sanders graduated in May, and is enrolled in graduate school. He played in only the first three games of the 2011 season, before missing the rest due to injury. For his career, he has 54 catches for 690 yards. Sanders is also a track standout.
Syracuse has the potential to have one of the more challenging receiver matchups this season. In addition to leading receiver Alec Lemon (68 catches, 834 yards, 6 TD) coming back, the Orange also return Marcus Sales. Sales was suspended for the entire 2011 season after being arrested on a drug possession charge last July. In 2010, Sales was second on the team with 26 catches for 414 yards and 4 touchdowns. Lemon had 8 catches for 99 yards in the regular season finale at Pitt last year. If Lemon's health can be okay, and if Sales can move on from his offseason issues and play up to the potential that made him a four-star recruit coming out of high school, this tandem is going to be a challenge--especially with a four-year start at quarterback in Ryan Nassib.
Making quarterback Teddy Bridgewater even more of a threat this year is the fact that Louisville's most experienced position may be its receiving corps, or at least its deepest. Leading the way are sophomores Eli Rogers and Michaelee Harris. Rogers led the team with 41 catches for 454 yards and a touchdown. Rogers had a breakout game with 7 catches for 106 yards against Cincinnati. Harris added 37 catches for 455 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both Rogers and Harris have game breaking abilities.
The Buffalo Bulls return a pair of big targets in juniors Fred Lee and Alex Neutz. Running back Branden Oliver caught 38 passes a year ago, yet still ran it another 300 times. There's no question he's capable and comfortable carrying that kind of workload. Neutz caught 43 passes for 641 yards and 4 touchdowns. Lee added another 20 receptions for 139 yards and 2 scores. The most challenging thing for opposing defenses with Lee and Neutz--the size. Facing the potential of Oliver--a bruising ball carrier--touching the ball 30 times a game, if the Bulls throw, they'll have to tackle a 6-2, 204 Lee or a 6-4, 209 Neutz.
Despite being primarily a running team, the Owls return starter Deon Miller. The junior caught 18 passes for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first year as a starter. Also expected to at least see the field are junior Ryan Alderman, redshirt freshman Robbie Anderson, redshirt freshman John Christopher, junior Michael Doty, junior Tyron Harris, senior Eugene Malcolm, senior C.J. Hammond, sophomore Brett Pierce and senior Darryl Shine.
Michael Floyd was a first-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals in April. That might sound like some good news for Notre Dame opponents, but the Irish still have some weapons in the passing game. Tyler Eifert is a tight end, but played more like a receiver last year--especially with his 8-catch, 75-yard performance at Pittsburgh last year, that also included a touchdown catch. The one to watch is Theo Riddick. Riddick was third on the team with 38 catches for 438 yards and 3 touchdowns. Riddick has an opportunity for a big season after Floyd's departure, to step into a big-play type of role.
The Huskies are also predominantly a running team thanks to sophomore Lyle McCombs. UConn loses its top two receivers from a year ago in Isiah Moore (43 catches, 566 yards) and Kashif Moore (41 catches, 604 yards, 5 TD). Nick Williams may step in for a much bigger role at receiver this year, after catching 11 passes for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns last year. Williams has been an All-Big East performer on special teams. Pitt fans will remember him for returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown the last time Pitt was in Hartford. The Huskies must first figure out their quarterback situation.
Mohamed Sanu is off to the NFL as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. Quron Pratt (32 catches, 327 yards, 1 TD) may be counted on to step up and fill the void left by Sanu's departure. He may have some help, and a challenge at the same time. Four-star recruit Leonte Carroo has a chance to make an impact right away where there's a need.
South Florida returns four receivers with significant starting experience, including Andre Davis (22 catches, 273 yards, 2 TD), Sterling Griffin (43 catches, 530 yards, 3 TD), Victor Marc (33 catches, 357 yards, 2 TD) and Deonte Welch (33 catches, 433 yards, TD). while none put up the type of individual numbers that emulate a go-to receiver, with this kind of experience coming back and the numbers they did produce last season say a lot about what this unit does collectively.