August 15, 2008

Crabtree headlines wide receiver rankings

MORE: Ohio State's Wells leads way for running backs

What can Texas Tech sophomore wide receiver Michael Crabtree do for an encore? Big 12 defenses would rather not learn the answer.

Crabtree began his college career by delivering the greatest season of any freshman receiver in history: 134 receptions for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns to lead the nation and set NCAA freshman records in all three categories.

That kind of season made the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner an easy choice as the No. 1 wide receiver in the preseason edition of the Rivals.com Power Rankings, which measure the nation's top players and coaches at each position.

Crabtree also spent the majority of last season as the No. 1 receiver in the power rankings. He is followed on this list by two multipurpose threats: Florida's Percy Harvin and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin.

The flurry of offseason coaching changes had at least one major impact on this list. You won't find any Hawaii receivers in our rankings now that June Jones has moved on to SMU. But you will find other receivers from outside the so-called "Big Six conferences" filling the last four spots in our rankings.

We're introducing our preseason power rankings on a position-by-position basis. We'll continue Saturday with the introduction of our tight end rankings.

The rating of a player and coach can fluctuate each week during the season depending on how they fared the previous week, but the power rankings measure overall career performances as well as their most recent results.

THE WIDE RECEIVER RANKINGS
1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech, Soph.
The Buzz: Crabtree won the Biletnikoff Award and led the nation in receptions (134), receiving yards (1,962) and touchdown catches (22) last season. Imagine what he'll do now that he's gotten over his freshman jitters.
2. Percy Harvin, Florida, Jr.
The Buzz: Although we list him as a receiver, Harvin often lines up in the backfield and arguably is the nation's top multi-purpose threat. He has nearly as many career rushing yards (1,192) as receiving yards (1,285).
3. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri, Soph.
The Buzz: Maclin rivals Harvin as the guy who possess the nation's most dangerous combination of explosiveness and versatility. He was the only player in the nation last season to score in each of these four manners: a run from scrimmage, a catch, a kick return and a punt return.
4. Aaron Kelly, Clemson, Sr.
The Buzz: Now that he already has set single-season school records for receptions and touchdown catches, Kelly needs three more touchdown catches to break the 57-year-old school career record of 19 held by Glenn Smith.
5. Brandon Gibson, Washington State, Sr.
The Buzz: Gibson set a school record and led the Pac-10 last season with 1,180 receiving yards. Will he be able to match that mark this season without Alex Brink throwing him passes? Good news for Gibson is that new coach Paul Wulff runs a pass-happy spread offense.
6. Mike Thomas, Arizona, Sr.
The Buzz: Thomas thrived in offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes' system last season and led the Pac-10 with 83 catches and 11 touchdown receptions.
7. Kenny McKinley, South Carolina, Sr.
The Buzz: McKinley sat out spring drills with a toe injury, but it's not expected to bother him this season. He has more career receptions and receiving yards than any active SEC player.
8. Brian Robiskie, Ohio State, Sr.
The Buzz: Robiskie made the most of his opportunities last season - 11 of his 55 catches resulted in touchdowns.
9. Demetrius Byrd, LSU, Sr.
The Buzz: Byrd's statistics last year (35 catches for 621 yards and seven touchdowns) won't raise anyone's eyebrows, but there might not be a more dangerous receiver in the nation when a game's on the line.
10. Arrelious Benn, Illinois, Soph.
The Buzz: Benn showed enough flashes of brilliance in his freshman season to whet our appetites about what he might accomplish the rest of his career.
11. Jarett Dillard, Rice, Sr.
The Buzz: Dillard's 40 career touchdown catches put him 10 shy of the NCAA record held by former Louisiana Tech star Troy Edwards. He has caught at least two passes in each of the 36 games he has played at Rice.
12. Mike Jones, Arizona State, Sr.
The Buzz: Jones knows how to catch whatever type of ball you throw in his direction. This two-sport athlete spent the summer playing outfield for the New York Yankees' rookie-level Gulf Coast League team.
13. Kenny Britt, Rutgers, Jr.
The Buzz: The Knights are hoping Britt picks up where he left off last season. Britt caught 18 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns in Rutgers' final two games a year ago.
14. Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State, Sr.
The Buzz: Oregon State quarterbacks combined for 21 interceptions and 11 touchdown passes last year as Stroughter sat out most of the season. With Stroughter around for the whole year, the Beavers may reverse those numbers this fall.
15. Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina, Jr.
The Buzz: Nicks set a school record last season with 74 catches. The next step is to make more catches in the end zone - he scored just five touchdowns a year ago.
16. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland, Jr.
The Buzz: The biggest evidence of Maryland's quarterback problem is that this potential first-round pick hasn't produced a 1,000-yard season. He finished 2007 with 786 receiving yards almost twice as many as any of his teammates.
17. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State, Soph.
The Buzz: His two-touchdown performance in an Insight Bowl victory over Indiana suggests Bryant will make sure Oklahoma State fans don't miss Adarius Bowman too much this season.
18. Preston Parker, Florida State, Jr.
The Buzz: Parker's ability to make big plays in the backfield and in the passing game should make him one of the ACC's most explosive players, once he returns from a two-game suspension to open the season.
19. Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma, Sr.
The Buzz: Former teammate Malcolm Kelly garnered much more attention last season, but Iglesias ended up with more catches (68) and receiving yards (907).
20. Marcus Barnett, Cincinnati, Soph.
The Buzz: Barnett caught at least two touchdown passes in five games last season, including a three-touchdown performance against Syracuse.
21. Vidal Hazelton, USC, Jr.
The Buzz: At least one of those talented USC wide receivers has to step forward now that Mackey Award-winning tight end Fred Davis has moved on to the NFL. We're placing our bets on Hazelton, who ranked second on the team with 50 catches last season.
22. Dante Love, Ball State, Sr.
The Buzz: Love caught 100 passes last season, when he set a Mid-American Conference record with 2,690 all-purpose yards.
23. Antonio Brown, Central Michigan, Soph.
The Buzz: This spot just as easily could have gone to Bryan Anderson, Brown's teammate at Central Michigan. We instead chose to reward the upside of Brown, a Miami native who caught 102 passes as a freshman last season. Brown also is a dangerous return man.
24. Jeremy Childs, Boise State, Jr.
The Buzz: Childs set a school record with 82 receptions last season and caught at least four passes in each of the Broncos' regular-season games.
25. Brennan Marion, Tulsa, Sr.
The Buzz: We could have given this spot to Tulsa's Trae Johnson, who caught a team-high 67 passes for 1,039 yards last season. We instead reward the big-play ability of Marion, who set an NCAA single-season record last year by averaging 31.9 yards per catch.

MORE: Ohio State's Wells leads way for running backs

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.



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