This past week I received the opportunity to vote on the Fred Biletnikoff award for the most outstanding wide receiver in college football. I was very excited to be a part of this for two reasons. Number one, I always idolized Fred Biletnikoff as a kid, especially his toughness. Secondly, I was areceiver my entire life until I arrived at college and they moved me to runningback.
I had some favorites growing up like Roy Green from the St. LouisCardinals and Golden Richards from the Dallas Cowboys. They didnt throw much in college back in the day, but I will promise you that Clemson receiver Perry Tuttle, 22 could play in any era. The award has been around since 1994 and had some terrific players including Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State, who won it the last two years. He along with Michael Crabtree from Texas Tech are the only players to win the award twice. If you want to learn more about the awardcheck out their website at http:www.biletnikoffaward.com.
There has been only one SEC winner and that was LSUs Josh Reed in 2001. Hard to imagine with all the talent the position has seen recently (Julio Jones, Percy Harvin and AJ Green). However the SEC players don't have the opportunity to put up stats like some other teams. Also hybrid type players such as Percy Harvin are caught without one defined position and that could hurt them as well. The watch list will come out in July and I would expect a few SEC guys to be on it. Do they have a shot? Well it all depends, can they get enough touches to impact a great team into a great season. Going into the season these guys have to be on top of your list
-Sammy Watkins, Clemson. He had 82 receptions last year and 12 touchdowns as a freshman. He was the biggest impact freshman in the country. He will be game planned for this year and Chad Morris will have to be creative to keep him at the same numbers. He really commands two defenders and with Tajh Boyd back at quarterback they should put up some huge numbers.
-Robert Woods, USC. He totaled 111 receptions and 15 touchdowns last season and in my opinion was overlooked. He was a finalist for the Biletnikoff, and kudos to the voters because most talking heads brushed over him. Matt Barkley is coming back and USC starting thepreseason in the top five should showcase him more to folks across the country. Woods is the go to guy and once again the chemistry with Barkley helps him back his numbers up in 2012.
-Tavon Austin, West Virginia. He went over 100 receptions and 8 touchdowns and does a lot of his work inside a five yard box at the line of scrimmage. He has the speed to beat anyone on the outside but head coach Dana Holgorsen loves his escape ability and wants him touching the balls in a variety of ways.
-Steadman Bailey, West Virginia. He was the outside threat in the Mountaineer offense and has played ball with quarterback Geno Smith since high school. Just like the first two guys, his chemistry with Smith will continue to help him put up big numbers. He averaged nearly 18 yards a catch and led WVU with 12 touchdowns.
-Marquess Wilson, Washington State. First of all he put up 82 receptions and 12 touchdowns last season without Mike Leach. Can you imagine what he might do this season? Playing in the offensive Pac 12 helps where there are plenty of great receivers and offenses. With Leach bringing the spotlight to Pullman, expect people to take notice of this talented receiver.
Sleepers from the South--Kobi Hamilton, Arkansas. I think he is poised for a huge season and with one of the best quarterbacks in college football (Tyler Wilson) throwing to him he could be in the mix.
-Rashad Greene, FSU. He is the best receiver in the state of Florida and that used to mean a lot. I think if EJ Manual has a big year thiskid could end up on some All- American lists. He averaged 4 plus receptions pergame and nearly 16 yards per catch in just nine games. I could see his numbers in the 60s in 2012.
-Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia. He has no shot, well not because he's not good enough but he has to play corner the first two games. Again another impact freshman who brings back his outstanding quarterback in Aaron Murray. Mitchell needs to find the end zone more in 2012, but he has the talent to be a big time player.
-Justin Hunter, Tennessee. He is coming off an injury but he may be the most talented receiver in the SEC. Tyler Bray who also needs to stay healthy is going to get the opportunity to throw it a lot. I believe Hunter will emerge as the clear number one ahead of Rogers and if the Vols have a good season, he will get a lot of attention.
The last SEC finalist for the Biletnikoff was Alshon Jeffrey of South Carolina in 2009. Other SEC finalists have been Jabar Gaffney, Florida 2001, Jacquez Green, Florida 1997, Reidel Anthony, Florida 1996, Jack Jackson, Florida 1994 and Frank Sanders, Auburn 1994. Steve Spurrier has coached 5 of the 7 Biletnikoff finalists in SEC history. Growing up a receiver, and playing for Steve Spurrier as well as coaching with Mike Leach and Dana Hologorsen, this just feels right to me. I am honored to add this responsibility to my resume. I am currently a Heisman voter and take it very seriously. I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds this fall!