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Where Do We Stack Up? Wide Receivers

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The SEC East is the passing division of the conference. While there have certainly been prolific quarterbacks (The Mannings sans Peyton, Pat Sullivan, Joe Namath) and wide receivers (Don Hutson, Terry Beasley, Wendell Davis) in the West, the East has most certainly dominated through the air. This season looks to be no different with all of the talent Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee bring to the table at both quarterback and wideout. This does not mean, however, that the SEC West is untalented in the passing game. There are many receiving threats scattered throughout the West and many teams, most notably Auburn and Arkansas, are looking to utilize them more so than last season in order to put together a potent passing attack.

Here's how the West will stack-up this season at wide receiver:

1. LSU - How does LSU always have something like 14 or 15 All-SEC receivers? While Early Doucet has gone to the Arizona Cardinals, Demetrius Byrd and Brandon LaFell can easily fill in his vacancy. Byrd led the team in receiving touchdowns last season (7) and is aiming to win the Biletnikoff award this upcoming fall. Furthermore, the signing of DeAngelo Benton and Chris Tolliver adds depth to an already stellar corps of receivers. The only real issue remains at quarterback. If LSU cannot find a consistent passer to deliver the ball, expect the passing game to be a frustrating one in Baton Rouge.

2. Alabama - As much as it hurts to say, John Parker Wilson is a good quarterback. No, I didn't say great, but he's most certainly more than "serviceable." He will really allow his wideouts to shine this season if he is protected well enough and able to avoid any major injuries. DJ Hall and Matt Caddell are gone but I expect freshmen Melvin Ray, Destin Hood, and über-recruit Julio Jones to contribute well their freshman season. All three have good size and speed and will be called upon early and often. If JPW plays well, Jones and co. shine, and LSU has quarterback issues, expect Alabama's passing offense to be the best in the West.

3. Ole Miss - Mike Wallace and Shay Hodge are both ready to make a lasting impression on the Ole Miss faithful this season. Hodge has as sure a set of hands as anybody and Wallace emerged as one of the conference's premier deep threats with an eye-popping 18 yards per catch last season. Dexter McCluster, if he can avoid injury, could also become a dependable option for Jevan Snead. Prep school star Andrew Harris could also contribute as a freshman if he is able to qualify.

4. Auburn - I feel that Auburn and Ole Miss are rather interchangeable here simply because of their similarities. They both are utilizing new offensive systems designed around highly-touted yet unproven quarterbacks. Statistically speaking, Rod Smith (705 yards, 13 YPC, 5 TD) is the only player from last season who truly sticks out. If Tim Hawthorne and recruits Darvin and Harry Adams become viable receiving options, Kodi Burns should have an easy time working under new OC Troy Franklin's spread offense. If Franklin's offense brings out the best in Burns and his receivers, Auburn could jump ahead in these rankings.

5. Arkansas - Casey Dick has an opportunity to shine under Bobby Petrino but his receivers are the least experienced in the SEC. Arkansas' leading receiver last season, by a long shot, was a fullback. Simply put, the running game was the fulcrum of the offense, for obvious reasons. The team's leading true receiver going into this spring had negligible numbers (157 yards, 13.1 YPC, 3 TD) last season. The position was recruited fairly well and Jarius Wright along with Cruz Williams will likely be used effectively in a Bobby Petrino style offense. If Casey Dick's spring game statistics (404 yards, 2 TD) are indicative of anything, one can expect Arkansas to sport a completely different looking offense this season.

6. Mississippi State - The departure of Tony Burks should hurt Mississippi State dearly this season, as Wesley Carroll will have to rely on Jemayel Smith as his only legitimate, veteran wideout. Co-Eric Riley has the potential for greatness and could have a breakout season. Other than that, Mississippi State could have serious trouble with their passing game this season. The position was not recruited very well (O'Neal Wilder has ideal size, but was not highly touted by scouts) which does little to help with regards to depth. Keep in mind, they averaged an abysmal 160 yards per game through the air last season.


There it is. Comment and criticize. We all know you will.



EDIT: Cruz Williams will not be attending the University of Arkansas this fall. (HT: YellowTailSwine)