Josh Stewart (5-10 185) is the leading returning receiver in the Big 12 after putting up 101 catches for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago. But is he even the best receiver on his own team? Tracy Moore (6-2 215) looked the part early on last year, especially in a monster eight-catch, 106-yard, four-touchdown performance. Together, they might be the best outside-slot duo in the league. Outside receiver Charlie Moore (6-2 202) and inside receiver/flex tight end Blake Jackson (6-3 235) combined for 1,140 yards and nine touchdowns, and together, they'll make up the top four receivers in the Cowboys' spread look. But players like Austin Hays (6-2 185), who had almost 400 receiving yards last year, also adds depth beyond the starting lineup.
If Stewart and Moore is the top duo in the Big 12, Mike Davis (6-2 193) and Jaxon Shipley (6-1 192) aren't far off. Davis emerged as one of the Big 12's top deep threats with 939 yards, averaging 16.5 yards per catch and adding seven touchdowns. He swung multiple games with his ability to get deep. Shipley is as steady as they come, and had 737 yards and six touchdowns last year. The Longhorns will likely count on sophomore Kendall Sanders (6-0 183) as an additional downfield threat, while big-bodied receivers like sophomore Cayleb Jones (6-3 211) and true freshman Jake Oliver (6-4 205) add red zone presences. For upside, look at Daje Johnson (5-10 184), who was explosive as a speed-sweep guy a year ago, and tight end M.J. McFarland (6-6 260), a converted receiver who can really run.
3) Texas Tech
In receiver Eric Ward (6-0 204) and tight end Jace Amaro (6-5 257), the Red Raiders have two players who rank among the best in the league at their respective positions. Ward led Tech in receiving a year ago with 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns, and those numbers figure to boom in Kliff Kingsbury's offense. Amaro is a serious weapon at tight end who should also be utilized more this year. But after that, there's a significant drop-off. Jakeem Grant (5-6 163) was Tech's No. 4 receiver last year and had 287 yards and three touchdowns, averaging just 8.7 yards per catch. Bradley Marquez (5-11 201) might end up opposite Ward, but he'll be pushed by young wideouts like Derreck Edwards (6-1 177) and former highly touted recruits Reginald Davis (6-0 184) and Dominique Wheeler (6-1 177). Both Davis and Wheeler are high on talent, but low on experience.
Only Oklahoma could lose two players the caliber of Kenny Stills and Justin Brown but have many people feel like they still have the pieces to put together a dominant wide receiver group. In the Sooners' case, that's largely because of their dynamic slot duo of Jalen Saunders (5-9 161) and Sterling Shepard (5-11 186). Saunders was a big hit after transferring in from Fresno State, catching 62 passes for 829 yards in his first year in Norman. And Shepard made the most of his true freshman year last year, catching 45 passes for 621 yards. The key will be developing the players on the outside. Can Trey Metoyer (6-2 184) live up to his fantastic potential? An obvious wild card is Jaz Reynolds (6-2 197), who has been an excellent player when not getting in trouble off the field. Keep an eye on young bucks like Derrick Woods (6-1 186) and Durron Neal (6-1 201).
It seems like every year the Bears have to replace a major receiving threat, and this year is no different. Gone is Terrance Williams, the Big 12's leading receiver a year ago. And Lanear Sampson, a really nice complementary option is gone as well. But the cupboard is hardly bare, thanks in large part to Tevin Reese (5-10 170). Reese averaged 18.1 yards per catch and had 957 receiving yards a year ago. He figures to be in for a big year. Levi Norwood (6-1 190) is back at the other inside receiver spot after catching 40 passes for 487 yards last year. The Bears have a wealth of options on the outside as well, including Antwan Goodley (5-10 220), Jay Lee (6-3 205), Clay Fuller (6-1 210) and Corey Coleman (5-10 180). But the most intriguing might be blue-chipper Robbie Rhodes (6-0 185), who has elite downfield speed. For a spread team, the Bears also possess a nice pair of tight ends in Jordan Najvar (6-6 260) and Jerod Mong (6-5 275).
BEST OF THE REST
6) TCU — Gone are Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson, TCU's Nos. 1 and 3 receivers. But Brandon Carter (5-11 161) appears poised for a breakout season after averaging 16.4 yards per catch last year. Ladarius Brown (6-4 220) has big-time ability, but must produce more than last year's 27-catch, 385-yard season. Ja'Juan Story (6-4 208) was a former national recruit who transferred from Florida. There's depth, too. Tight end Stephen Bryant (6-5 242) also returns after suffering a season-ending injury before last year began. This is a group that looks great on paper, but needs more production to join the groups above.
7) Kansas State — Tramaine Thompson (5-8 167) might be one of the most underrated receivers in the league, and fellow special teams dynamo Tyler Lockett (5-11 175) isn't far behind. The two combined for 1,213 receiving yards and eight touchdowns last year. Curry Sexton (5-11 183) is a steady option, while Torell Miller (6-2 216) and Deante Burton (6-2 205) add size to a smaller unit. Oh, and there's also Kyle Klein (6-4 210), the younger brother of former star quarterback Collin Klein.
8) West Virginia — No team in the Big 12 (maybe the country) lost what the Mountaineers did in proven playmakers Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and J.D. Woods. But the 'Eers planned for the contingency by hitting the JUCO ranks hard and coming up with Mario Alford (5-9 175), Ronald Carswell (6-0 180) and Kevin White (6-3 211). All three could start this season. Keep an eye on speedy holdover Jordan Thompson (5-7 168), K.J. Myers (6-2 197) and freshmen Devonte Mathis (6-1 210) and Shelton Gibson (6-1 175).
9) Iowa State — The Cyclones haven't exactly been dynamic in the passing game of late, and they lost their top three receivers from last year to boot. Jarvis West (5-7 174) is the leading returnee, and he had just 31 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns last year. Sophomore Quenton Bundrage (6-2 189) has the potential to be a breakout guy. Albert Gary (5-10 103) has seemingly been around forever, and he'll be pushed by players like Tad Ecby (6-0 195), Dondre Daley (6-1 191) and P.J. Harris (6-1 160). The pain at receiver is eased a bit by the strength at tight end with Ernst Brun (6-3 251) returning after catching six touchdown passes and the addition of JUCO All-American E.J. Bibbs (6-3 250).
10) Kansas — The Jayhawks have upgraded their talent a here, but it's impossible to get past one mind-boggling stat: Kansas's receivers didn't catch a single touchdown pass a year ago. To be fair, maybe the Jayhawks' two best wideouts in 2013 didn't play for the team a year ago. If Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell (6-1 193) can get his eligibility figured out, he'll have a chance to return to his sophomore form, when he was one of the top receivers in the country. Justin McCay (6-2 213) is a former five-star prospect who transferred in from Oklahoma. Returnees Andrew Turzilli (6-4 188) and Christian Matthews (6-1 192) give the Jayhawks a couple big guys who can run, while Tre' Parmalee (5-10 172) showed flashes in the slot. If someone can hop in out of the two JUCO transfers and high-schooler Ishmael Hyman, that would help. Tight end Jimmay Mundine (6-2 242) has ability as a receiving threat.