Don’t look now, but we’re about ⅔ of the way through the college football regular season. Now in the home stretch, teams are gunning to improve their playoff or bowl stock, and individuals are trying to make lasting impressions for award season.
There is currently no more hotly contested race than the one for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the best pass catcher in the country.
A month ago, I wrote about the Biletnikoff Award and it’s past winners. It’s an invaluable bump to a receiver’s draft stock, as 11 of the last 12 winners have been drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Additionally, it can be a good indicator of future pro success, as Hall of Fame caliber players such as Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson have won the award. Other well-known professional receivers such as Terry Glenn, Braylon Edwards, Michael Crabtree, Golden Tate, Brandin Cooks, and Amari Cooper have been recipients.
The interesting thing about the award is that it has been dominated by the Big 12, with 7 of the last 11 winners coming from the conference. A month ago, I noted Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown as a potential favorite. Brown has been a bit slowed by playing through injury, which has opened the door for other receiver across the country to stake their claim.
With the Biletnikoff Award adding new players to their Watch List on October 10th and today, let’s look at the recent additions and potential finalists.
Rico Bussey Jr., North Texas
Aaron Fuller, Washington
Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Texas
Jalen Hurd, Baylor
Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt
Darnell Mooney, Tulane
Jalen Hurd has converted from Tennessee running back to Baylor wide receiver, and the results have succeeded even the most bullish of expectations. Hurd has posted 622 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, as well as pitching in 112 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. The added dynamic to the Bears offense is a big part of their resurgence this season.
Lil'Jordan Humphrey has teamed with fellow Longhorn wide receiver Collin Johnson to create a formidable passing attack. Humphrey has been picking up yards after the catch with regularity, now up to 567 yards on the season.
Damonte Coxie, Memphis
Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Flynn Nagel, Northwestern
K.J. Osborn, Buffalo
Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Jace Sternberger is the only tight end currently on the Biletnikoff Watch List, an honor in it's own right. The Kansas transfer is averaging 17.1 yards per reception and has 6 touchdowns so far this season.
Tyler Johnson, K.J. Osborn, Flynn Nagel and Damonta Coxie are all in the top 17 in the country in receiving yards. Johnson is the leader of the pack with 705, as well as 6 touchdowns for the Golden Gophers.
Before we get into the players who are in serious contention for the award, it's important to look at past winners for context clues and trends. Over the past 12 winners, the average season-long stat line has been 102 receptions, 1,562 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. However, despite the usual high total of receptions, none of the past three winners have topped 80 for the season. This trend could be a shift in what voters are looking for as offensive production become more spread out and less reliant on singular receivers.
Another indicator seems to be a minimum amount of receiving touchdowns. Over the past 12 winners, the lowest amount of touchdowns for the season has been 13 (James Washington, 2017). Additionally, there hasn't been a winner since 2009 that has had fewer than 1,363 receiving yards (Corey Coleman, 2015). Therefore, each likely candidate needs to be on track for at least double-digit scores and roughly 1,200 plus yards.
It's important to note that voters will likely defer to players from Power 5 conferences. There hasn't been a Non-Power 5 winner of the award since Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards in 1998, who needed to post the insane stat line of 140 receptions, 1,996 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns to win it.
With the recent emphasis being put more on yards and touchdowns than receptions and receiver from Power 5 conferences, let's look at potential finalists for the award.
Antoine Wesley, Texas Tech
Wesley's first year as a starter has been a revelation for the Red Raiders. Wesley set the school-record for receiving yards in a game against Houston, and has kept up his production since then. Currently leading Power-5 receivers with 858 yards, Wesley has chipped in 6 touchdowns to put himself at the forefront of the award race.
Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado
Shenault Jr. has drawn, wait for it, Julio Jones comparisons this season. It's easy to see why, as his size and athleticism combination has allowed him rack up 780 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns so far.
A.J. Brown, Mississippi
Brown has been the most productive of the Ole Miss wide receiver trio, with 805 yards and 5 touchdowns to this point. With D.K. Metcalf sidelined for the rest of the year due to injury, it could open the door for more redzone looks for Brown. If he can rack up some touchdowns down the stretch, he will be right in the mix at the end.
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Jeudy is a big-play machine, averaging a whopping 25.1 yards per catch this season. His 777 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns may place him as the favorite for the award at this point, despite only having 31 receptions on the season.
Rondale Moore, Purdue
The Freshman sensation Rondale Moore may have the biggest part of Purdue's season turnaround, as he has already racked up 728 yards and 7 touchdowns. After posting 170 yards and 2 touchdowns against Ohio State, Moore is starting to get the national attention he deserves.
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
Brown's early season production has kept him in the running, as he has 716 yards and 7 touchdowns so far. Oklahoma will need Brown to be the dynamic receiver he is capable of being down the stretch, and a few more big plays will put him right in the mix.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
The towering receiver has boxed-out his way to 9 touchdowns this season, giving him the second most among the current candidates. His 632 receiving yards isn't too shabby either, but will need to improve in order for him to approach the 1,200 yard minimum threshold.
Who is the Favorite?
It's hard to argue with what Jerry Jeudy has done to the point in the season. With the voters for the Biletnikoff Award putting less and less emphasis on the number of receptions, Jeudy is in position to win it based on the number of yards and touchdowns he has to the point. Another thing working in his favor is that Alabama is likely to play an extra game in the SEC Championship, giving him the opportunity to rack up even more production. With Alabama steamrolling the competition to this point, the voters are sure to take notice of Jeudy's play.