Kolby Listenbee, TCU (6-1, 183): The big-play performer averaged 19.4 yards per reception during his career. He caught 30 passes for 597 yards — an average of 19.9 yards per catch — with five touchdowns as a senior. Those receiving averages should come as no surprise — Listenbee finished seventh in the 100-meter dash at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in June. He was honorable mention all-Big 12 as a junior with 41 receptions for 753 yards and four scores. He’s got a long way to go but has come a long way already.
Ricardo Louis, Auburn (6-2, 215): Louis paced the passing game with team-leading figures of 46 receptions, 716 yards (15.6 average) and three touchdowns. Plus, he added 167 yards on 29 rushes (5.4 average) as the coaching staff found ways to get its best playmaker the ball. As a junior, he became the first Auburn receiver to ever rush for 100 yards in a game. As a sophomore, he famously caught a tipped pass on fourth-and-18 and raced 73 yards for the game-winning touchdown against Georgia. He finished his career with 98 receptions for 1,338 yards and eight touchdowns.
Byron Marshall, Oregon (5-9, 202): Marshall’s final season ended after just four games with an ankle injury. "It sucks, there is no other way to put it," he said. "I have never been hurt since I started playing so the fact it took this long to get my first injury, I count my blessings." Marshall is an intriguing dual-threat prospect. In 2013, he rushed for 1,038 yards. In 2014, he was moved to receiver in October and had 1,003 receiving yards to become the first player in conference history with 1,000 rushing yards in one season and 1,000 receiving yards in another. Plus, he averaged 27.5 yards per kickoff return during his abbreviated senior season. "He was a 1,000-yard rusher last year, our leading rusher, actually I think our offensive skill MVP, and you've got to have a team, selfless attitude to move to a different position because you know that's going to help our football team," said receivers coach Matt Lubick at Saturday's national championship media day. "I can't say enough about that because he's helped us a ton."
Jalin Marshall, Ohio State (5-11, 205): Marshall left with two seasons of eligibility remaining. He caught 36 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns in 2015 and 38 passes for 499 yards and six touchdowns in 2014. His best game came against Indiana as a redshirt freshman, when he scored four times in the second half — three on passes and a 54-yarder on a punt return. Marshall averaged 13.5 yards per punt return this past season. Marshall was suspended for the first game of the 2015 season. Marshall was a five-star recruit who at Middletown (Ohio) High School rushed for 4,759 yards as a quarterback and won the state long jump championship. His many talents were obvious back then — from football to basketball to track to show choir. “I didn’t try being on the cheerleading team. Then again, I don’t know if they’d have let me do that.”
Mekale McKay, Cincinnati (6-4, 195): McKay caught 27 passes for 507 yards (18.8 average) and two touchdowns as a senior. As a junior, he caught 44 passes for 725 yards (16.5 average) and tied for the team lead with eight touchdowns. After transferring from Arkansas to be nearer to his ailing grandmother, McKay caught 16 passes during his first season with Cincinnati. He turned a stunning seven of those into touchdowns with a 30.3 average. In three years with the Bearcats with 87 receptions for 1,717 yards (19.7 average) and 17 touchdowns.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State (6-1, 204): What a journey for Miller. In 2012 and 2013, he was named the Big Ten’s MVP by the Chicago Tribune as a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. In 2012, he passed for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 1,271 yards and 13 more scores. He finished fifth in the Heisman race as Ohio State went 12-0. In 2013, he threw for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 1,068 yards and 12 scores. He finished ninth in the Heisman voting. However, in the bowl game, he suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He re-injured that shoulder at practice in August 2014. In his place, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones helped the Buckeyes win a national championship. So, in 2015, Miller was moved to receiver. He caught 25 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. "You don't realize how much goes into what the receiver does," said Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who played quarterback at Kentucky. "It takes time. Being able to get in a comfortable stance that allows you to get off of press coverage. Just the little technique and speed cuts. Bursting and turning. Being able to use your leverage. There was so much to go into it that you had to work on it on a daily basis. Especially when you go from playing quarterback, where you're worrying about dropping back and your footwork." For his career, he passed for 5,295 yards and rushed for 3,315 yards and accounted for 88 total touchdowns. He starred at receiver during Senior Bowl week.
Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia (5-11, 194): Mitchell was an immediate difference-maker with 45 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman. But he really put himself on the map as a sophomore. Not only did he catch 40 passes for 572 yards and four scores but he had 12 tackles and three passes defensed at cornerback. He missed most of 2013 with a torn ACL. As a senior, he caught team-leading figures of 58 receptions, 865 yards and five touchdowns. Football isn’t his only talent. In August, his children’s book “The Magician’s Hat” was published. “With writing it’s almost personal. This is a piece of me. It's my vision, it's my heart it’s my words. Opening up and sharing that with everybody isn’t the easiest thing to do, but if you want to get a message out you have to open your arms and allow people to step in and today is my attempt to do that.”
Chris Moore, Cincinnati: Moore, Cincinnati’s career leader in touchdown receptions, is a big-time big-play threat. As a senior, he caught 40 passes for 870 yards and seven touchdowns. As a junior, he caught 30 passes for 673 yards and eight touchdowns. Those are averages of 21.8 and 22.4, respectively. In 2015, his averaged ranked eighth in the nation. In 2014, had three receptions for 221 yards and three touchdowns (60, 83, 78) against Ohio State, setting a national record with his 73.7 yards per catch. He beat quality defenders en route to the end zone. Moore’s decision to attend Cincinnati was quite logical. "I had a spreadsheet of every single college I would want to go to. "I had the offense, the yards, what their record was, how many quarterbacks they had and what year they were. Cincinnati just fit everything I wanted to do."
Marquez North, Tennessee (6-3, 224): Underclassman. Injuries sidetracked the career of one of the top prep receivers. In 2015, he was bothered by knee and back injuries and played in only seven games with four starts, catching a mere six passes for 58 yards. In 2014, he caught 30 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns before missing the end of the season with a torn labrum. The injuries left him feeling “angry.” North is an athletic prodigy. As a 12-year-old, he won the 110-meter hurdles at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics. His father, Ramondo, was part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl championship in 2003.
Jordan Payton, UCLA (6-1, 216): Payton became the first player in school history with 200 catches (201). As a senior, he caught 78 passes — second-most in UCLA history — for 1,105 yards and five touchdown to earn second-team all-Pac-12 accolades. He’s a solid all-around player, from catching the ball to blocking. “There’s no doubt that I’m definitely underrated on what I do,” he said. “I’m probably a lot faster than you think, a lot quicker than you think, a lot stronger than you think. I can’t wait to show it, honestly.” When he’s not looking good on the football field, he’s looking good as a partner in the Long Awaited Clothing line. "I have always thought that Jordan used football as a vehicle to accomplish the personal things that he wanted to do," said Sterling Root, one of Payton's business partners. "He thinks outside the box.
Charone Peake, Clemson (6-2, 208): Peake missed most of 2013 with a torn ACL and caught just 12 passes in 2014. It was a different story in 2015, though. With degree — and opportunity — in hand, Peake caught 50 passes for 716 yards and five touchdowns. It was a glimpse of the potential he flashed as a high school All-American.
ALSO IN THIS SERIES
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.