We continue our look at the Best of the SEC. In football, every position is crucial. Each position requires an individual level of skill, great attention to detail, and disciplined repetition to accomplish an organized win. While the quarterback is the chief position with the most difficulty, the wide receiver position requires a meticulous individual with significant precision. They must essentially be the surgeons on the field with tactical skill, otherwise, a slight mistake may result. College football has been the home to numerous wide receivers with excellent skills, with the past two NFL Draft classes being some of the best. Here’s a look at the top five best returning wide receivers in the Fall.
Top Five SEC Wide Receivers in 2021
Jaden Walley, Mississippi State
As a true freshman, Walley started eight of 11 games. He was also the first freshman to record 100 yards receiving in a game since Chad Bumphis, who amassed 123, against Georgia Tech in 2009.
Last season, Walley ranked No. 42 in the NCAA and No. 10 in the SEC in receiving yards (718), No. 86 nationally and No. 10 in the SEC in receptions per game (4.7), No. 2 in the FBS among true freshman in receiving yards (718) and No. 3 in receptions (52) according to PFF. He also shattered a 43-year-old record for single-game receiving yards by a freshman with 176.
During the Maroon-White Spring Game, Walley injured his leg and had to be helped off the field. It was later announced that he had a sprained MCL in his knee. After some rehab, he is ready to play this season.
John Metchie, Alabama
In 2019, Metchie played in all 13 games, totaling four catches for 23 yards and a tackle. He began the 2020 season as the Tide’s No. 3 wideouts, averaging 16.7 yards per catch. He ranked seventh in the SEC and totaled 916 yards and six touchdowns on 55 catches. He was quickly added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. And most impressively, in 2020, Metchie converted a first down or scored a touchdown on 35 of his receptions as a sophomore.
Ainias Smith, Texas A&M
In 2019, Smith played in 12 games, with three starts. He connected on six passes for 66 yards and a touchdown against Lamar, and also had five receptions for 80 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown grab, in the win over Arkansas. Against Mississippi State, Smith had three kickoffs for 49 yards. He also caught three passes for 22 yards, also returning four punts for 53 yards, against South Carolina. At the Texas A&M team banquet, he was named the Special Teams Newcomer, Special Teams Impact, and Specialist Strength.
Even though Smith is a running back, he led the Aggies with 564 receiving yards off 43 receptions and six touchdowns. Last season, he played in all 10 games, making six starts.
George Pickens, Georgia (if he plays)
After tearing his ACL during spring practice, one of the biggest questions heading into the Bulldogs’ 2021 season is the health and the possible return of star WR Pickens. According to Sports Illustrated, as of last week, Head Coach Kirby Smart told the media that Pickens was making good progress.
During the 2020 season, Pickens had 36 catches for 513 yards and six touchdowns. During his start as a true freshman, he totaled eight touchdowns and 727 receiving yards. Although his overall rating dropped during the season, he averaged 4.5 catches per game and 12.2 yards per game.
During a game against Baylor in 2019, Pickens amassed 175 receiving yards and 12 catches, earning MVP status at the 2020 Sugar Bowl.
Treylon Burks, Arkansas
As a freshman, Burks started nine of eleven games in multiple positions of the offensive line, for a total of 488 plays, including punt and kickoff returns. He totaled 361 snaps at the slot position. Burks had 29 passes for 475 yards, leading the team in receiving yards. Also as the team’s main punt returner, he totaled 12 punts for 130 yards, averaging 10.8 yards per return. He also ran 10 kickoffs back for 226 yards for an average of 22.6 yards per kickoff return. He has a complete total of all-purpose yards with 866, averaging 78.7 per game.
And that was just the 2019 season.
In 2020, Burks led the Razorbacks with 51 catches, 820 yards, and seven touchdowns. He also completed the season third in the SEC, averaging 91.1 receiving yards per game and fifth in total receiving yards.
The Boys of Fall
One of the most fitting quotes for football positions in college football comes from Pete Fiutak of College Football News,
“The quarterbacks and star running backs build the house, but find the right receivers, and you’ve got the place furnished.”
With all the changes in the college football horizon, it will be interesting to see what will be built in the 2021 season with returning wide receivers.