The Big 12 has never struggled in fielding excellent receivers, as evidenced by past players such as Dez Bryant, Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright, Josh Gordon, etc. Similar to several Big 12 running backs last year, plenty of wideouts experienced breakout seasons in 2014 as well, even as freshmen or transfers.
While many teams indeed return talented receivers across the board for the upcoming 2015 season, these five stand above the rest, and should find themselves at the top of the conference by the time December rolls around.
1. Sterling Shepard – Senior – Oklahoma
2014 was a rough one for Shepard, as he basically missed the final half of the season after a suffering a groin injury against Iowa State. Prior to the injury on Nov. 1, Shepard had racked up 51 receptions in a little over seven games, (equaling his total from his sophomore year,) and was averaging over 19 yards per reception, which was tops in the Big 12. Shepard’s production is even more impressive when considering how much the Sooners struggled from the quarterback position in 2014.
Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield should provide a boost behind center for OU in 2015, and with the Sooners’ talent at the running back position keeping defenses honest, Shepard should pick up right where he left off, leading the conference in nearly every receiving category. Don’t be surprised to see him among the nation’s leaders by season’s end as well.
2. Corey Coleman – Junior – Baylor
With the departure of Kevin White and Tyler Lockett to the NFL, the speedy, 5-foot-11 Coleman is actually the returning Big 12 leader in receiving yards with 1,119, which is a pretty impressive feat considering that he missed the first three games of the season recovering from injury. He caught 12 passes in his first game of the season in 2014 against Iowa State, and surpassed that total several weeks later when he hauled in 15 receptions for 224 yards in a big win over Oklahoma, scoring on a 33 yard pass as well as a five yard touchdown run.
If Baylor quarterback Seth Russell can continue the quarterback production that the Bears have grown accustomed to in recent years, he should remain high on that list throughout 2015, especially with fellow 1,000 yard receiver KD Cannon providing plenty of distraction of his own downfield.
3. Josh Doctson – Senior – TCU
Doctson was Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin’s favorite target during a breakout 2014 season, amassing 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns, with two of those scores coming in a dominating Peach Bowl win over Ole Miss. Prior to his bowl performance, Doctson displayed his big play ability often, including a 225 yard outing during a big win over Oklahoma State that saw him catch touchdown passes of 84 and 77 yards.
Doctson was one of the many position players that benefited from a new offensive scheme for the team last season, and with Boykin, running back Aaron Green, fellow receiver Kolby Listenbee, and a very solid offensive line returning, there is every reason to believe that the 6-foot-3 Doctson will at least equal his output from 2014, with the potential for even more, attracting even more attention from NFL scouts.
4. Jakeem Grant – Senior – Texas Tech
After catching 65 passes as a sophomore in 2013, Grant’s 2014 campaign was supposed to be even better. Sure, he did catch more passes in 2014 (two more, to be exact,) the season was in some ways still a disappointment for Grant, especially when considering the fact that he started three more games in 2014 than in his sophomore year. While racking up 938 receiving yards and seven touchdowns is far from being considered poor, it seems that after a decent start to the season, Grant came apart a bit towards the end of the season, dropping balls frequently and missing blocks. After several weeks of mediocre performances, Grant was able to end the season on a high note, displaying his speed and elusiveness while catching five passes for 155 yards and a score in a two-point loss to Big 12 champion Baylor in the Red Raiders’ regular season finale.
Assuming that Texas Tech’s quarterback play improves in 2015, one would imagine that Grant, in his final season, could put up the numbers we all expected out of him last season. With Devin Lauderdale breaking out during the second half of 2014, and the addition of four-star recruits Keke Coutee and J.F. Thomas, the Red Raiders should have plenty of talent on the field, creating plenty of opportunities for Grant.
5. KD Cannon – Sophomore – Baylor
Cannon, along with Corey Coleman, comprised a lethal duo for the Bears in 2014. After arriving in Waco as a top-10 position recruit, Cannon’s freshman season was a very successful one, as he complied 58 receptions, 1,030 yards, and eight touchdowns, setting Baylor freshman records in all three categories. Cannon closed the year on a high note, highlighted by an eight catch, 197 yard, two touchdown performance against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.
At 6-feet, 175 lbs., Cannon is hardly considered a physical receiver, as he earns his yards mostly by utilizing his speed, getting open deep on a regular basis. Formerly a star track athlete in high school, Cannon joined the Baylor track team at the conclusion of spring practice in April, which will no doubt leave him in great shape by the time fall camp comes around. With a year of experience under his belt, track conditioning, Seth Russell looking more and more capable of keeping the passing yards flowing, and the league’s deepest receiver corps lining up next to him, 2015 could be a huge year for Cannon.
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