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Oregon edges Ohio State for best college football receiver room entering 2024 season

College football’s offseason has transformed into a veritable arms race with the advent of the transfer portal and recent legislation that essentially bars the NCAA from enforcing its own transfer regulations. Chief among the most coveted acquisitions, given the proliferation of pass-heavy offenses on a national scale, are players to catch those passes. 

Wide receivers and tight ends have seen their stock rise in recent seasons. Programs that consistently turn out effective receivers tend to have a ton of success. Just look at Washington and its surprise run to the College Football Playoff National Championship a year ago: the Huskies got there thanks to an explosive passing attack headlined by a trio of 2024 NFL Draft picks in Rome Odunze (Round 1), Ja’Lynn Polk (Round 2) and Jalen McMillan (Round 3). 

Texas followed a similar path to a Big 12 championship and its first playoff appearance in program history, leaning on the production of wide receivers Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, among others, while marching to a 12-2 finish. It’s no wonder, then, that highly ranked wide receivers and tight ends, be they from the high school or transfer portal ranks, are often among the most sought-after players. 

Building depth at each position is especially important with expanding conferences and a larger College Football Playoff adding to a team’s weekly rigors. With that in mind, there are some programs in better shape than others at the receiver spot entering the 2024 season. 

Here’s a look at the nation’s best — on paper, at least. 

1. Oregon

Leading receiver Troy Franklin is off to the NFL, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem for an Oregon offense that should rank among the nation’s best. Tez Johnson, who set a single-season program record with 86 receptions in 2023, is back to lead a revamped receiving corps. He returns with 1,182 yards and 10 touchdowns and has All-American upside if another explosive season follows. A pair of 400-yard receivers in Traeshon Holden and Gary Bryant Jr. round out Oregon’s returning depth. 

Joining them is transfer Evan Stewart, a former five-star prospect who impressed in two seasons at Texas A&M despite inconsistent quarterback play and an underwhelming offensive scheme under former coach Jimbo Fisher. Even with the veterans ahead of him, Stewart might be the team’s best pass catcher. Returning tight ends Terrance Ferguson and Patrick Herbert and high-upside reserves like Jurrion Dickey and Kyler Kasper make this an insanely deep unit.  

2. Ohio State

No program recruits and develops wide receivers better than Ohio State. This year’s group might be short on overall experience thanks to notable draft departures like All-American Marvin Harrison Jr., but the Buckeyes are more than capable of pushing for the top spot on this list with the absurd amount of talent on the roster. Emeka Egbuka did spurn the NFL Draft to give new quarterback Will Howard at least one proven option after logging 1,666 yards and 14 touchdowns over the past two years. 

But Egbuka hasn’t been the center of Ohio State’s offseason hype machine. Far from it, in fact. That honor goes to true freshman Jeremiah Smith, the No. 1 prospect from the Class of 2024 and one of the most ballyhooed players to never take a snap at the collegiate level. It’s going to be hard to keep Smith off the field given his explosive spring. The early impression is that he’s more than ready for a feature role. Carnell Tate is another former five-star prospect who the Buckeyes expect to step up after a solid first year with the program. 

3. Texas 

Texas has to replace four of its top five receivers from last year’s College Football Playoff team. That level of attrition would normally suggest regression for an explosive passing attack, but not with how coach Steve Sarkisian has stacked skill position talent. The gem of Texas’ transfer class is former Alabama wide receiver Isaiah Bond, who was the No. 4 overall prospect in 247Sports’ Transfer Rankings. Bond had a scorching-hot close to the 2023 season and profiles as a breakout star waiting to happen. The Longhorns also poached über-athletic tight end transfer Amari Niblack from Alabama. Niblack should pick up the production left by 2024 NFL Draft pick Ja’Tavion Sanders. 

The Alabama expats are joined by Matthew Golden (Houston) and Silas Bolden (Oregon State) to comprise the nation’s best receiver transfer haul. Pay particular attention to Bolden, who was a multi-dimensional threat with the Beavers and is an absolute weapon with the ball in his hands. Johntay Cook II, a top-10 WR recruit in 2023, will take on a bigger role, while five-star freshman Ryan Wingo has a chance to see the field plenty in his first year. 

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Alabama transfer Isaiah Bond figures to play a huge role for the Longhorns in 2024. USATSI

4. Missouri

Luther Burden III garners most of the attention in discussions surrounding Missouri’s passing attack, and for good reason. He could be the first offensive player off the board in the 2025 NFL Draft. But Missouri is much deeper than just one name. Former Oklahoma transfer Theo Wease Jr. established himself as a reliable target with 682 yards and six touchdowns last season. Dynamic slot receiver Mookie Cooper and his 939 yards in three seasons is back, while Marquis Johnson is an excellent depth choice. 

Tight end Brett Norfleet is another breakout candidate. He initially planned on playing both baseball and football, but he’s dropped the former to focus more on the latter. At 6-foot-7, he boasts an immense catch radius and the athletic traits to be an elite receiving threat. He’s worked hard to improve as a blocker and has drawn rave reviews from Missouri coaches and players alike, so a big season in a featured role could be on tap. 

5. Ole Miss

Lane Kiffin’s offenses have captivated national audiences, dating back to his time as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. With the arsenal of weapons at his play-calling disposal, this could be his best unit ever. Tre Harris made his fair share of jaw-dropping plays and emerged as one of quarterback Jaxson Dart‘s favorite targets in 2023, hauling in 54 catches for 985 yards and eight touchdowns. Louisville transfer Jordan Watkins was an effective running mate with 741 yards and three touchdowns of his own. They’re both around for another year and have established chemistry with Dart. 

To offset the loss of Dayton Wade, Ole Miss dipped into the portal and secured a commitment from former South Carolina star Antwane Wells Jr. Wells was sidelined with a foot injury for most of the 2023 season, an ailment that lingered into the spring, but he’s one of the SEC’s best when he’s healthy. Rounding things out, 6-foot-5 and 255-pound tight end Caden Prieskorn has great body control and moves extremely well for a player his size. He has more than 1,000 yards receiving over the past two seasons at Memphis and Ole Miss, and he will add plenty to that total this fall. 

Honorable mention 

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