In the era of the spread offense a truly successful team needs a speedy guy who can hit the seam, a big possession type receiver who can make the tough catch over the middle and a tight end or hybrid guy that creates mismatches with linebackers and defensive backs because of his size and speed. No team saw the struggles of not having those types of players more than Oklahoma did in 2014. A preseason national title contender, the Sooners struggled offensively due in part to the receiving corps not being up to par. This was highlighted when even more when Sterling Shepard was injured. Now, as the teams prepare to go to camp next month it's the receivers that will be highlighted to separate conference championship contenders from the teams just hoping to make a bowl appearance. Here's how I rank the Big 12 when it comes to the guys who are catching the ball.
1. Oklahoma State
Some may be a bit surprised to see the Cowboys ranked here but there's no getting around the fact that O-State is the deepest team in the conference when it comes to returning experience. Nine of the Pokes' top ten receivers from 2014 are back this fall including receptions leader David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd and his 18.9 yards per reception.
Sophomore KD Cannon is a star! He's surrounded by junior Corey Coleman and senior Jay Lee. The Bears had to say goodbye to Levi Norwood and Antwan Goodley after the 2014 season but there's a legitimate chance they won't skip a beat in 2015.
Texas Christian's top two receivers from 2014 are back again and with the experience and talent of quarterback Trevone Boykin they should post big numbers in 2015...really big numbers. Seniors Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee combined for nearly 1,800 yards and 15 touchdowns on 106 receptions.
4. Iowa State
Sophomore Allen Lazard averaged 13.2 yards per reception last season and junior D'Vario Montgomery led the team with 605 receiving yards. Quarterback Sam B. Richardson will have some tools to work with in the passing game.
5. Texas Tech
Senior Jakeem Grant is a tremendous play maker who led the Red Raiders with 938 yards and seven touchdowns on 67 receptions. Junior Devin Lauderdale averaged 19 yards per reception and had a season-long of 82 yards.
Sterling Shepard is one of the top receivers in the Big 12 but was very limited in support last year. Durron Neal has shown flashes but has yet to become the guy that OU thought he was going to be upon his arrival. Oklahoma is putting a lot of stock in JUCO transfer Dede Westbrook and freshman Mark Andrews.
7. West Virginia
Senior Jordan Thompson was the team's third leading receiver last season and tight end Cody Clay will one of the top in the conference at his position. Even so, the losses of Kevin White and Mario Alford will be tough to absorb.
8. Kansas State
Senior Kody Cook is KSU's leading returning receiver from 2014 but only caught 20 passes. Deante Burton was right behind him with 17 catches which means the Wildcats are replacing the 185 receptions between Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton with 37 between Cook and Burton.
Marcus Johnson is a big play threat but he only caught 27 passes in 2014. Daje Johnson is a versatile athlete who can line up either in the backfield or out wide. Behind them the Longhorns have young and inexperienced talent.
We always get to this point and mention that it's going to be a long season for the Kansas Jayhawks...and it most certainly is.