Preview 2010 - ACC
Ten Best Receivers
- ACC Skill Position Rankings
1. Donovan Varner, Jr. Duke
With last year’s top six pass-catchers back, Duke boasts one of the ACC’s best collections of receivers. Leading the brigade in the slot is Varner, a first team All-ACC performer coming off a breakthrough year. He performs as if he’s channeling Carolina Panther Steve Smith, playing much bigger than his 5-9, 170-pound frame and with the mentality that he can’t be stopped. Outstanding after the catch, he led all receivers with 65 grabs for 1,047 yards and eight scores hitting the 100-yard mark in five of the last seven games closing out with 165 yards against Miami and 174 against Wake Forest.
2. Leonard Hankerson, Sr. Miami
With four of last year’s top five receivers back, Miami should have more than enough quality targets for Jacory Harris. The veteran and top returning pass-catcher is the 6-3, 215-pound Hankerson, who enjoyed a breakthrough year with a team-high 45 catches for 801 yards and eight touchdowns. He uses his size exceptionally well, getting proper position on defensive backs and adjusting to bad balls. Underutilized in his first two seasons, he’s one more productive season away from continuing his career at the next level.
3. Greg Little, Sr. North Carolina
Now that the training wheels are coming off, it might be time for the receivers to start rolling. Carolina was painfully young at the position last fall, using a gaggle of freshmen in the aftermath of losing Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster. The lone exception was Little, who became the go-to guy after bouncing around earlier in his career, catching a team-best 62 catches for 724 yards and five scores. A physical 6-3, 215-pounder, he’s also a smooth enough athlete to eventually play on Sundays.
4. Bert Reed, Jr. Florida State
Reed continues to leave no doubt that he’s Florida State’s best weapon at wide receiver. Fresh off a breakout year, he caught 60 passes for 710 yards, adding his only two touchdowns and another 94 yards on 18 carries. A legit 4.3 burner, he can stretch a defense and get behind the secondary, yet is also becoming more skilled as a total receiver. While not very thick at 5-10 and 167 pounds, his size won’t prevent the Noles from seeking new and inventive ways to get him the ball, preferably in space.
5. Jarrett Boykin, Jr. Virginia Tech
After a couple of years of grooming, the Hokie wide receivers have finally reached a point of stability and productivity. Climbing to the head of the pack at split end is the 6-2, 210-pound Boykin, who’s on the brink of becoming an all-star. A long and physical target, he hauled in a team-high 40 balls for 835 yards and five touchdowns. Not only does he have huge hands and a wide catch radius, but he adjusts well to balls in the air and has a knack for getting behind the secondary and making big plays.
6. Jarvis Williams, Sr. NC State
NC State has plenty of problems; quality hands is not one of them. The Wolfpack had three players catch at least 30 passes and six touchdowns in 2009. All of them are back, led by Williams. Physically imposing at 6-4 and 219 pounds, he has big hands and uses his body well when the ball is in the air. After scratching the surface as a sophomore, he really percolated last fall, catching 45 passes for 547 yards and 11 touchdowns. With NFL scouts beginning to pay attention, the best is yet to come for No. 5.
7. Marshall Williams, Sr. Wake Forest
The team’s other starting receiver on the outside figures to be 6-1, 185-pound Williams, a proven playmaker on the outside over the last two seasons. He stepped up when the team needed a key producer in 2009, making 60 receptions for 867 yards and six touchdowns. A long and lean athlete, he has the stride and the burst to get behind the secondary, working hard to become a more complete and sure-handed receiver.
8. Torrey Smith, Jr. Maryland
It only took one season for the 6-1, 200-pound Smith to supplant Darrius Heyward-Bey and become one of the nation’s most productive all-purpose players. The go-to guy at “Z” receiver, he erupted for 61 catches for 824 yards and five touchdowns in a breakthrough All-ACC campaign. More than just a big and strong playmaker, he’s also a team leader and one of the hardest workers.
9. Travis Benjamin, Jr. Miami
The undisputed playmaker of the Cane receiving corps is the 5-10, 175-pound Benjamin, a gamebreaker catching passes, taking handoffs, or returning kicks. One of the fastest players in America and an improving pass-catcher, he’s instant offense, jetting through the secondary before defenders can even break his stride. He only started a pair of games, yet finished his second year with 29 receptions for 501 yards and four touchdowns. Even as a decoy, he’s so quick and electrifying, it can put defenses on their heels.
10. Jarmon Fortson, Jr. Florida State
Serving as an ideal complement to the diminutive Bert Reed is the 6-3, 221-pound Fortson, a physical receiver in the Terrell Owens mold. Despite starting just six games, he still finished third on the team with 45 grabs for 610 yards and four touchdowns. He plays with the physicality of a linebacker, and has the length and catch radius to be a major force for Christian Ponder, especially near the end zone
11. Owen Spencer, Sr. NC State
Jarvis Williams’ partner on the outside is Spencer, the field-stretcher among the wide receivers. He established a new single-season ACC mark for yards per catch in each of the last two years turning into a special deep threat. Long and lean at 6-3 and 185 pounds, he has the jets to streak into the secondary and leave opposing defensive backs in his wake. A year after averaging more than 20 yards a grab, he upped the ante by parlaying 30 receptions into 765 yards and six touchdowns.
12. Conner Vernon, Soph. Duke
Lining up at one of the two outside spots will be the 6-2, 195-pound Vernon, a returning Freshman All-American in his first year on campus. A pleasant surprise so early in his career, he debuted with 55 receptions for 746 yards and three scores. A playmaker who can make the tough grab in traffic as well as the spectacular one, he’s headier than most second-year players.