Though the SEC is known as a running league, it boasts some of the best wide receivers in the country. If the level of quarterback play improved across the conference, these players all could be household names.
But even in some of the plodding SEC offenses, stars emerge at wideout. Here are the top 10 receivers the SEC has to offer in 2016:
1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
2015 stats: 89 catches for 1,045 yards, 7 TDs
Many wondered how Alabama would grow last season after losing star receiver Amari Cooper to the NFL. Ridley made that transition seamless. He had a slow start to the season, but finished it leading the conference in catches. If freshman Jalen Hurts takes over at quarterback, the combination of Hurts, Ridley and the running back rotation could make for a more dynamic offense than last season.
2. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
2015 stats: 80 catches for 1,009 yards, 7 TDs
In the year of the true freshman wide receiver, Kirk was one of the best in the nation. He led a talented Aggies wide receiving corps in receptions and yardage, even as Texas A&M’s quarterbacks struggled. Kirk added a pair of punt-return touchdowns in just 14 attempts. He has All-America potential.
3. Fred Ross, Mississippi State
2015 stats: 88 catches for 1,007 yards, 5 TDs
Ross became one of Dak Prescott’s favorite targets in Starkville the past two seasons. But after being a reliable possession receiver for a great quarterback, Ross will have to step up to help break in a new quarterback. Ross has some of the surest hands in the SEC, which should help likely quarterback Nick Fitzgerald gain some confidence.
4. Malachi Dupre, LSU
2015 stats: 43 catches for 698 yards, 6 TDs
The only thing holding back Dupre from stardom is the LSU offense. Everything is built around RB Leonard Fournette, leaving Dupre and a stacked wide receiver rotation as glorified blockers. But when given the ball, Dupre is a dynamic playmaker. LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has to find a way to get Dupre more involved.
5. Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
2015 stats: 51 catches for 907 yards, 5 TDs
Texas A&M has one of the most fearsome foursomes of receivers in the nation. Though Kirk, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil all were bigger names out of high school, Reynolds has been the most consistent option the past two seasons. After playing at a junior college for a year, Reynolds transferred to the Aggies and posted 842 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. Listed at 6-foot-4, his frame allows him to absorb contact and make plays in traffic downfield. He will continue to be the primary complement to Kirk.
6. Drew Morgan, Arkansas
2015 stats: 63 catches for 843 yards, 10 TDs
The Arkansas offense has a run-first reputation, but Bret Bielema’s system has balanced out nicely in recent years. The Razorbacks finished No. 3 in the SEC in passing yards, and Morgan is a big reason why. With Mackey-Award-winning tight end Hunter Henry gone to the NFL, Morgan will get a bigger role in the passing game.
7. ArDarius Stewart, Alabama
2015 stats: 63 catches for 700 yards, 4 TDs
Stewart is everything expected of an Alabama wide receiver. He has the hands and strength to make catches downfield, but is fast and physical enough to turn screens and short passes into long gains. The combination of Ridley, Stewart and tight end O.J Howard will make the transition to a new quarterback seamless.
8. Quincy Adeboyejo, Ole Miss
2015 stats: 38 catches for 604 yards, 7 TDs
Laquon Treadwell was the headliner at Ole Miss the past three years, but he’s a Minnesota Viking now. In his place, Adeboyejo is expected to become the featured piece. He averaged 15.9 yards per catch last season, which ranked No. 7 in the conference. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Adeboyejo has the size to be a force outside without compromising speed.
9. Antonio Callaway, Florida
2015 stats: 35 catches for 678 yards, 4 TDs
Callaway easily is one of the most talented players on this list. He led the league at 19.4 yards per catch last season despite Florida’s incompetence at quarterback. If Callaway can stay out of trouble off the field, he has the potential to be one of the most reliable options in the conference.
10. Garrett Johnson, Kentucky
2015 stats: 46 catches for 694 yards, 2 TDs
Despite the trouble Mark Stoops’ Wildcats have run into the past few years, the offense was improved last season. Running back Boom Williams set himself apart as the star, but Johnson developed into a dynamic complement. Between consistency at quarterback and Dorian Baker stretching the other side of the field, Johnson will break out and become a recognizable name in the SEC. The key now will be leveraging more of his catches into touchdowns.