With college offenses throwing more and more in an effort to move the ball downfield, offensive coordinators need to have a stable of playmakers at wide receiver ready to rotate in and put the secondary on its heels. Here is a look at the top five wide receiver classes to date for the 2014 recruiting cycle, based on the industry-generated 247Sports Composite.
Artavis Scott is one of three Clemson WRs in this class already on campus.
Commitments: Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside)
In the closest battle for this series to date. Clemson’s group - which includes four wideouts, three that enrolled early, with a chance to be highly productive for offensive coordinator Chad Morris - gave the Tigers an ever so slight edge for No. 1. Scott is not the biggest nor is he the strongest, but he is extremely fluid in his movements and might be the best route runner in the 2014 class not named Travis Rudolph. Thompson has the size and strength to beat press coverage, and his aggressiveness to go up and win the jump-ball battle makes him a big-play threat as well. Kitt is a solid, consistent slot with a cool on-field demeanor who can make the difficult catch in traffic and should do plenty of damage inside working against zone coverage. Priester has a chance to develop into a big-play threat because of his outstanding combination of size, large hands, leaping ability, body control and balance.
2. Texas A&M
Having Noil, the No. 1 wide receiver in the country, made this an extremely tight race. Speedy, as his name suggests, is a human jet that comes off the line as if he were shot out of a cannon. A true difference maker in the mold of a Percy Harvin, Noil is a versatile, big-play threat with explosive after-the-catch ability, explosive return capabilities, large, soft hands and the top-end speed to challenge defensive backs vertically. Iheanacho fits the Mike Evans mold of a freakishly athletic basketball player-turned wideout with tight end size. He has some work to do from a technical standpoint, but his size, leaping ability, and impressive top-end speed should allow him to become a downfield threat, if not just a red-zone monster. Size will always be an issue with Jeffery, who will need to add strength to avoid injury, but he is so scary in space that he should be fun to watch in the spread at the next level. He should push Noil for return responsibilities as well. Reynolds has the physical tools to stretch the field, but the Aggies’ coaches are going to have to be patient in working on his route-running and use of his hands off the line of scrimmage to his advantage.
Artavis Scott, Clemson
3. Ohio State
Early enrollees: Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer)
Commitments: Parris Campbell (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary), Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis/Cathedral)
There is a lot to like about the trio of incoming Buckeyes, and there is also a lot to like about Dixon physically. He is strong enough to create separation, can explode to top-end speed and beat defensive backs deep, and can find creases in the coverage with very precise route-running. As Campbell, who does not turn 17 until July, continues to progress as a route runner and grow physically, his future at wideout will likewise grow brighter and brighter. He sees the field well enough to steal some carries out of the backfield as well, which has always been his goal. McLaurin shows deep threat speed and is reminiscent of Seminoles standout Kenny Shaw in his ability to keep cornerbacks on their heels, although he is not quite as shifty as Shaw was coming out of high school.
Commitments: Armanti Foreman (Texas City, Texas/Texas City) , Lorenzo Joe (Abilene, Texas/Cooper), Roderick Bernard (Houston/Sharpstown), Dorian Leonard (Longview, Texas/Longview), Garrett Gray (Marble Falls, Texas/Marble Falls)
Charlie Strong is inheriting a deep incoming group of pass-catchers that all bring something different to the table. Foreman can be bottled up if you get your hands on him, but his burst off the line and incredible change of direction make that extremely difficult to accomplish. He should be an asset in the downfield passing game, in space out of the slot and in the return game. Joe can line up inside or outside and make plays, using his knowledge of how to change speed in his routes to get open and cause issues in zone coverage or man. He has a lot of natural tools to work with and shows little bust potential. Bernard is a spread utility weapon that lacks size but possesses great start-stop ability in space. Leonard is a really interesting talent in that he is a bigger wideout that wins most jump ball battles, but he also has room to grow and the agility of a much smaller receiver. Gray knows how to do two things really well – get open and catch the ball regardless of where it is thrown. Those are obviously vital traits for his position, and his size increases his value.
Demarre Kitt, Clemson
The Sooners brought in a towering trio of pass catchers, with all three being 6-foot-5-plus. Andrews is built like a tight end, and the 6-foot-6 pass-catcher excels in creating a huge target in traffic by utilizing his height and body control to provide a very reliable target for the quarterback. Todd is another jumbo target that moves like a cornerback, with surprisingly crisp routes for his size. His toolset oozes with upside. Mead brings an intriguing blend of size and incredibly tuned in hand-eye coordination. He does a nice job high-pointing the ball.
Other top classes:
Kyrin Priester, Clemson
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