Earlier this week, we took a look at Syracuse's collection of wide receivers and tight ends. And while it's nice to see how our depth chart shakes out, it's even more useful to see how it appears in comparison to our main competition: the rest of the ACC.
While Syracuse lacks a real go-to option and has plenty of questions in terms of who's catching passes, that's not the case for the entire ACC. Several teams are well-stocked at the position, and as a result, it could mean trouble for those ACC schools that have questions in the secondary (hi, Syracuse!).
Below, each wide receiver/tight end unit is ranked, from No. 1 through 14. Again, having stars certainly helps here, though overall, we're trying to grade the strength of entire units. As there are a ton of receivers across the conference, don't be surprised if we fail to touch on every single one. Do you see things differently? Weigh in down in the comments.
ACC Football 2014 Position Rankings: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
1. Florida State Seminoles: Using the term "embarrassment of riches" seems over-played for Florida State, but it applies here as the team will have absolutely no problem replacing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. Rashad Greene was the best of this group last season, and is well equipped to lead the 'Noles in receptions yet again. He'll be assisted by a large collection of former four-star recruits, including TE Nick O'Leary, wideout Christian Green and one of the fastest players in football, Kermit Whitfield. Yes, this team is just as terrifying as last year's.
2. Louisville Cardinals: When speaking with Mark Ennis on this week's podcast, he mentioned that we shouldn't sleep on the Cards' receivers. And a quick look at that list of players hammers that point home. Everyone's well-acquainted with the damage the 6'3", 209-pound Devante Parker can inflict, but going down the depth chart, there's plenty more danger lurking as well. Eli Rogers, Robert Clark and Michaelee Harris are all veteran options that can and will tear up defenses. Plus, with Bobby Petrino's typical wide-open passing attack, expect a big spike in production for this group in comparison to Charlie Strong's much more reserved approach.
3. Miami Hurricanes: While FSU and Louisville's pass-catchers are aided by quarterbacks and offensive system, respectively, you might see the Hurricanes' talented group hurt by theirs. But despite the questions at QB and the run-heavy approach, it's tough to ignore the talent Miami possesses. Phillip Dorsett is their best receiver, and coming back from injury, he should regain his 2012 form when he caught 58 passes. There's also Stacy Coley, who's probably one of the top 10 sophomore wideouts in the country. Tight end Clive Walford should see an increased role serving as a safety valve for whichever inexperienced QB they use -- overall, there are a lot of weapons to help offset the concerns.
4. Duke Blue Devils: Jamison Crowder should be feared -- something folks were unsure about in preseason last year, but after a stunning 2013 season, it's now hard to argue otherwise. The then-junior was targeted 166 (!!!) times, caught 108 passes for nearly 1,400 yards and eight touchdowns. Oh, and he's just 5'9" and was also the focus of every defense Duke faced last season. He'll be aided by much larger targets like tight end Braxton Deaver (6'5") and Issac Blakeney (6'6"), among others -- and those guys will all get their catches too. But this passing attack rises and falls on Crowder's production.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels: Eric Ebron's gone, so there's a real question at tight end. But at receiver, the Heels seem very well positioned to continue growing into Larry Fedora's spread offense. Quinshad Davis is a star in the making, and it would be foolish to sleep on T.J. Thorpe and Ryan Switzer, too. The Tar Heels have a nice mix of size and speed at the wideout position and should be able to get open given QB Marquise Williams's mobility. Tight end will still play a role though, of course, so keep an eye on senior Jack Tabb, who's a much more traditional TE than Ebron (who was more of a large wide receiver).
6. Clemson Tigers: Syracuse fans are unfortunately familiar with new No. 1 wide receiver Adam Humphries, but now the rest of the country gets a real glimpse at the senior who's trying to do the impossible: Replace Sammy Watkins. It's a testament to the depth of talent Dabo Swinney's staff has been able to recruit that Clemson doesn't see an enormous drop-off without Watkins and Martavis Bryant, but expect a slight dip nonetheless. Humphries has a ton of speed and will attract plenty of defensive attention -- and that should free up his former four-star cohorts. Charone Peake, Germone Hopper and Mike Williams are all ready to jump in and pick up where the departed Tigers left off.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers: Tyler Boyd is one of the most versatile players in the conference, so for those expecting a boring Pitt attack this year, prepare to be surprised. Catching 85 passes as a freshman, Boyd will be the focus of every defense, but he should still thrive both in the passing and running game, where he makes occasional appearances as well. But beyond Boyd, where will the ball go? The Panthers appear well-stocked at tight end, as Manasseh Garner and J.P. Holtz should help out the passing game plenty. But after that, a lot of questions at receiver. Of course's Boyd's talented, but his supporting cast could end up deciding where that talent's ceiling lies.
8. NC State Wolfpack: State's Bryan Underwood is a very capable big play option, and should be the focus of the passing game. Beyond that, however, the Pack are in upheaval -- though it's unseen just how much that'll matter for Dave Doeren's offense (which won't rise-or-fall on the strength of the passing game, necessarily). Luckily, the questions at receiver are mostly based in youth, rather than older inexperience. Sophomores Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jumichael Ramos are big targets and could be the key to the downfield passing game -- giving this team some great upside in that department. We'll see wait and see how long the pieces take to come together, however.
9. Virginia Tech Hokies: There's some talent here, but the big issue is who the hell is throwing to these guys. Quarterback issues aside, though, the Hokies likely return their best overall receiver talent in a couple years, which gives some reason for hope. Upperclassmen Willie Byrn and Demitri Knowles provide the experience they need, and teamed with sophomores Joshua Stanford and Kalvin Cline (TE), this could be a competent group. But again, it's all based on quarterback play.
10. Syracuse Orange: I wish Syracuse could be higher on this list. I really do. But as we went over on Tuesday, there's very little in terms of "sure things" in the SU receiving corps, which gives reason for both worry and opportunity. Bubble screens will be the story of the day more often than not, and that'll mean a lot of Ashton Broyld and Brisly Estime. Beyond that, the Orange need a real deep option to step up, though. Is it Jarrod West or Quinta Funderburk? Or maybe one of the freshmen, Steve Ishmael or Jamal Custis (a Scott Shafer favorite)? A lot still needs to shake out here, which (as mentioned) is both good and bad.
11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: If anything positive came out of Michael Campanaro's injury last season, it's the fact that it opened up opportunities for some then-freshmen who will now get to jump in and be major players in the offense. Jonathan Williams, Jared Crump and Tyree Harris are all similar receivers (tall, thinner, former three-stars) and that provide solid targets for whomever ends up throwing the ball for Wake. The most interesting option of all, though, didn't even play for the Deacons last season. Virginia transfer E.J. Scott is eligible to play this fall after graduating from UVa back in January and should serve as a great example for Wake Forest's young pass-catchers in his one year on campus.
12. Virginia Cavaliers: Two of UVa's top three receivers are gone, but the lone remainder -- Darius Jennings -- could be the best of them. Will the Hoos throw the ball enough for that to matter, though? With just 248 completions last year, Virginia lacked much of a consistent passing game, but that could now be a strength in 2014, as a significant portion of those catches return and a much better passing QB (Greyson Lambert) takes the reigns. Past Jennings, the running backs figure to be very involved in pass-catching, along with receiver Keeon Johnson and tight end Zachary Swanson. Virginia may have the conference's largest range of worst- and best-case scenario at this position.
13. Boston College Eagles: Alex Amidon is the biggest receiving loss this side of Michael Campanaro, and more than just about anyone, BC will be relying on potential over experience to keep the lights on in the passing game. Bobby Swiggert (2012) and Dan Crimmins are the only returning players to catch more than 10 passes in their most recent seasons, which hammers home the point that this thing is starting from scratch come the fall. There's a chance someone comes out of nowhere, of course -- it's happened before for the Eagles. But based on what we know, it's hard to evaluate them as anything but an inexperienced, questionable right now.
14. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: The Wreck are down this low by design, but have some potential to rise, too -- or at least they might, depending on how often they end up throwing the ball. While former QB Vad Lee was willing to mix in passes and get receivers involved with the offense, Justin Thomas will bring them back to the old way of doing things, and a lack of throwing the ball. Players like Darren Waller and DeAndre Smelter could still see balls thrown their way, but not enough to fully utilize them... which is exactly how coach likes things.