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2018 B1G Positional Previews: Wide Receivers

Wisconsin v Nebraska
Something went right for Nebraska in 2017
Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

2017 wasn’t exactly a banner year for the B1G from a receiving perspective. Across the entire conference, there was but a single 1,000-yard receiver, Maryland’s D.J. Moore, who ventures off to the NFL draft. Penn State also sent off three high-volume pass-catchers, but again, only one of them, DaeSean Hamilton, was actually a wideout. That doesn’t mean, however, that there’s no hope for big things this season. Penn State was a good example of the conference’s best offenses opting to spread the wealth instead of leaning on featured receivers. Ohio State did the same, and many of the more promising passing attacks heavily featured underclassmen.

Here’s the best of what we have coming back (listed class is what they’ll be in the fall):

1. Stanley Morgan Jr., Sr, Nebraska

2017 stats: 61 rec, 986 yds, 10 TD

QB returning: No

As you’ll notice from their absence elsewhere in these previews, not much went right for Nebraska in 2017 other than the timing of their bad season giving them the chance to hire Scott Frost. However, despite the anemic run game and roller coaster play of QB Tanner Lee, both Morgan and fellow receiver JD Spielman flourished in Mike Riley’s pro sets. Morgan Jr. was fairly consistent, and of his 3 games with less than 50 receiving yards, 2 were blowouts in which a big game from Morgan was unlikely to matter.

2. Felton Davis III, Sr., Michigan State

2017 stats: 55 rec, 776 yds, 9 TD

QB returning: Yes

After two years of relative anonymity, Felton Davis III stepped forward as the clear No. 1 option in a reinvigorated MSU passing offense last year. Consistency was an issue for him, as he was held without a catch twice and had a single catch for middling yardage in two other games. But when he was on, he was nigh-unstoppable, and his colossal game against Penn State allowed the Spartans to match PSU’s offense stride for stride.

3. JD Spielman, So, Nebraska

2017 stats: 55 rec, 830 yds, 2 TD

QB returning: No

Opposite Stanley Morgan Jr., Spielman had a generally unappreciated debut season for the Huskers, though to be fair the team did have to throw constantly to keep up with its own terrible defense. Indeed, he piled up 20 receptions and 341 yards in Nebraska’s blowout losses to Ohio State and Minnesota. For the yardage he gained, he was somewhat unlucky in terms of finding the endzone, so look for that to even out this season.

4. Juwan Johnson, RS Jr, Penn State

2017 stats: 54 rec, 701 yds, 1 TD

QB returning: Yes

The single major contributor from Penn State’s potent receiving corps who returns for 2018 figures to step into a much larger role this fall with Hamilton, Mike Gesicki, and Saquon Barkley all moving on. Johnson’s size should make him a much more prominent redzone target with those three out of the picture, so a respectable jump in all his stats should be in the offing.

5. Bennett Skowronek, RS Jr, Northwestern

2017 stats: 45 rec, 644 yds, 5 TD

QB returning: Theoretically

Northwestern spread its passing game targets around liberally and oriented its offense around RB Justin Jackson, but Skowronek was nonetheless the reliable possession receiver on the variety of crossing and out routes that can make Northwestern’s offense such a pain to defend. His and the entire offense’s ceiling will turn heavily on how well would-be four-year starting QB Clayton Thorson returns from a late-season knee injury; even if he returns at or near full strength, it’s unlikely Northwestern zeroes in on Skowronek, so his numbers may not change much, but he can be counted on when needed.

Honorable Mention/Most #disrespekt’d

Quintez Cephus, Jr, Wisconsin: remained the Badgers’ second-most productive receiver despite going down with an injury midway through the year. The rest of the group - Danny Davis, Kedric Pryor, and A.J. Taylor - picked up momentum down the stretch without him, so he may have lost his primary place.

Tyler Johnson, Jr, Minnesota: had a few huge games but spent most of the year struggling to make Minnesota’s dysfunctional passing game work. He has the chops to be a lead receiver, but Minnesota’s offense as a long way to go.

K.J. Hill, Jr, Ohio State: The Buckeyes used their deep stable of receivers to good effect last year, the result being none of them stood out much from the group. Hill and Parris Campbell did most of the down-to-down work even though the touchdowns tended to go elsewhere.