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Receiver U. - The Best College WR Schools
Desmond Howard, Anthony Carter, & Braylon Edwards
Desmond Howard, Anthony Carter, & Braylon Edwards
Posted May 1, 2009

What schools are the best when it comes to cranking out great running backs? Based only on college production and not looking at pro prospects, talent, and anything that happened in the NFL, Pete Fiutak gives his take on the top 25 Wide Receiver Universities over the last 20 years.

Receiver U. - College Version

The Wide Receiver Factories

By Pete Fiutak | Richard Cirminiello Version of WR U. (College & Pro)
- R.C Version of RB U. (College & Pro) | Fiu version of RB U. (College Only)
R.C. version of QB U. |
Fiu version of QB U.

Unlike Richard Cirminiello, I don't care a lick about pro production when it comes to schools producing great wide receivers. All I care about is college production and which players did the most and what schools cranked out the best players. 

Also, forget about NFL-type talent and go by what actually happened on the field. Knowing what you know now, which schools have gotten the most out of their receivers? 

Somewhat shocking is the lack of great receivers throughout college football history. There have been great individuals, but few programs have enjoyed any steady success. Remember, college football was a primarily running sport until relatively recently. 

So without further ado, here are the 20 schools that produced the best college wide receivers since around 1970 along with the five greatest receivers for each team. Once again, this is based on production and not just talent.

1. Michigan

More stunning that a school that ran like Michigan is Wide Receiver U., considering what the offense was like up until the late 1980s, is that it really isn't close. Yeah, Desmond Howard won the Heisman as much for his punt returns as for his receiving, but he earned it with his play on offense. Mercury Hayes, Amani Toomer, Mario Manningham, Tai Streets and Greg McMurtry were all more than solid, while players like David Terrell, Anthony Carter, Marquise Walker and Derrick Alexander made several All-America teams. Braylon Edwards was a clutch all-timer, and if you really want to throw a wrench into the mix, Charles Woodson might have been one of the most dangerous receivers in Big Ten history had he spent all of his time on offense.

Michigan's fab five ...
1. Anthony Carter - Desmond Howard won the big prize, but Carter is the bigger legend as a three-time All-American who scored 40 career touchdowns as both a receiver and kick returner. He caught 161 passes for 3,076 yards and 37 touchdowns, averaging a whopping 19.1 yards per catch, in a pure running offense. 
2. Desmond Howard - He won the Heisman in 1991 catching 19 touchdown passes and scoring 23 times. He caught 134 career passes for 2,146 yards and 32 touchdowns before taking off early for the NFL.
3. Braylon Edwards - Simply devastating, Edwards was productive and very, very clutch. He dominated as a senior with a 1,330-yard, 15-touchdown season and caught 39 touchdowns in his final three years.
David Terrell - Before jumping to the NFL after his junior year, Terrell lit up the Big Ten with 2,317 yards and 24 touchdowns on 152 catches.
5. Marquise Walker - While not the star that some other Wolverine receivers were, Walker finished as the school's all-time leader in receptions with 176 catches for 2,269 yards and 17 touchdowns before getting passed by Braylon Edwards. Few made more highlight reel grabs.

2. USC

Starting with Lynn Swann in the 1970s and going through to Dwayne Jarrett, USC has consistently cranked out devastating receivers to complement the running game. The obvious stars like Swann, Miike Williams and Keyshawn Johnson are the most popular Trojan receivers, while several stars like Johnnie Morton, R. Jay Soward, Kareem Kelly, Keary Colbert and Eric Affholter were among the best in the Pac 10 during their time. 

USC's fab five ...

1. Keyshawn Johnson - Lynn Swann didn't put up the numbers needed for the number one spot, and Mike Williams just missed out on being here. Johnson is Mr. Trojan who's still a major spokesman for the school. He was a whale of a player catching 168 passes for 2,796 yards and 16 touchdowns highlighted by his 12-catch, 216-yard, one-touchdown performance against Northwestern in the 1996 Rose Bowl.
2. Mike Williams - It's hard to understate just how much Williams meant to the resurgence of USC football under Pete Carroll. Carson Palmer was a talented quarterback, but he didn't become a major Heisman candidate until Williams blossomed into a true freshman superstar. He helped ease Matt Leinart into the job in 2003 catching 89 passes for 1,353 yards and 14 touchdowns. In only two years his 30 touchdown catches ranked number one in USC history, and he finished with 176 catches for 2,570 yards, before joining Maurice Clarett into court to try to leave school early. 
3. Lynn Swann - An All-American in 1973 and star of the 1972 national championship team, Swann was a tremendous home-run threat averaging 20.9 yards per catch in 1972 and 17 yards per catch in 1973. He finished his career with 95 catches for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns
4. Dwayne Jarrett - Who was going to replace Mike Williams? Jarrett, who became Matt Leinart's favorite target finishing his career with 216 catches for 3,138 yards and 41 scores.
5. Keary Colbert - Steve Smith might belong here. Overshadowed by Mike Williams, Colbert somewhat quietly finished his career as USC's all-time leading receiver. A steady player throughout his career, he closed things out with a bang catching six passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in the 2004 Rose Bowl win over Michigan. 

3. Tennessee

Tennessee doesn't have any one receiver that will be considered among the greatest of all-time, but there's a breathtaking number of big-time producers. Even so, it's hard to put a program in the top spot with Joey Kent and Marcus Nash ranking first and second, respectively, on the all-time list (thank you Peyton Manning). Peerless Price, Stanley Morgan, Willie Gault, Tim McGee, Carl Pickens, Alvin Harper, Kelley Washington and Robert Meachem match up well with any receivers at any other school.

Tennessee's fab five ...

1. Joey Kent - While not a sexy pick for the number one all-time Tennessee receiver, his numbers are too good to ignore catching 183 passes for 2,814 yards and 25 touchdowns with a UT-best 15 100-yard receiving games.
2. Peerless Price - If nothing else his 199-yard day against Florida State for the 1998 Fiesta Bowl and national championship makes Price a legend. He caught 147 passes for 2,298 yards and 19 touchdowns.
3. Carl Pickens - Averaging 17.2 yards per catch, Pickens turned into an elite receiver after spending some time on the defensive side. He caught 109 passes for 1,875 yards and 13 touchdowns. 
4. Marcus Nash - The number two receiver behind Joey Kent until 1997, Nash finished number two on the Tennessee all-time receiving list catching 177 passes for 2,447 yards and 20 touchdowns.
5. Tim McGee - You could argue for at least four other receivers for this spot. McGee was a premier deep threat averaging 16.6 yards per catch finishing third on the UT all-time list with 159 grabs for 2,137 yards and 24 touchdowns.

4. Michigan State

With several of college football's most dangerous receivers, All-Americans, and more than its share of fantastic pro prospects, Michigan State has always cranked out great playmakers. Charles Rogers was the greatest superstar, but players like Plaxico Burress, Andre Rison, Devin Thomas and Courtney Hawkins made almost as much of an impact. Throw in above-average playmakers like Derrick Mason, Herb Haygood, Muhsin Muhammad and Gari Scott, and few can match Michigan State for overall firepower.

Michigan State's
fab five ... 

1. Charles Rogers - The Biletnikoff Award winner was one of the best receivers in college football history. He was a consistent touchdown maker and unstoppable playmaker with 135 catches for 2,821 yards and 27 touchdowns averaging 20.9 yards per catch. Because of his bust of a pro career, he was even better than most college football fans remember.
2. Andre Rison - Rison wasn't just dangerous, he was able to make the medium range catches as well becoming MSU's all-time leading pass catcher with 146 grabs for 2,992 yards and 20 touchdowns. 
3. Kirk Gibson - Yes, that Kirk Gibson. The future baseball legend surprisingly held the Spartan record for yards per catch averaging 21 per grab. He was an All-American finishing with 112 catches for 2,347 yards and 24 touchdowns.
4. Courtney Hawkins - The star of the passing attack after Andre Rison went off to the NFL, Hawkins caught 138 passes for 2,210 yards and 12 touchdowns as one of the steadiest players in recent MSU history.  
5. Plaxico Burress - Occasionally unstoppable, Burress had a brilliant two year career making 131 catches for 2,155 yards and 20 touchdowns before going off to become a great pro.

5. Florida

Florida has been loaded with several very, very good receivers boasting more consistent quality rather than one or two signature superstars. Players like Wes Chandler, Reidel Anthony, Jabar Gaffney, Jack Jackson, Jacquez Green, Ike Hilliard and Cris Collinsworth earned All-America honors, while others like Reche Caldwell, Taylor Jacobs, Travis McGriff, Percy Harvin, and Darrell Jackson were in the mix for the Biletnikoff Award. It should say something Carlos Alvarez, who left as the school's all-time leading receiver, and Chris Doering, who finished as the team's top touchdown producer, didn't make the top five. Jacquez Green didn't make the top five despite being a finalist for the 1997 Biletnikoff Award finishing with 61 catches for 1,024 yards and nine scores.

Florida's fab five ... 

1. Wes Chandler - While Chandler's 92 career catches for 1,963 yards and 22 touchdowns might not seem like all that big a deal in comparison to the top receivers of all-time, the stats are remarkable considering Florida ran the wishbone at the time. 
2. Percy Harvin - While he was injured a bit too often, Florida wouldn't might not have won two national titles without him. He finished with 133 catches for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns, and ran 194 times for 1,852 yards and 19 scores, but it was the way he came through in the big games highlighted by a dominant performance against Oklahoma in the 2009 BCS Championship.
3. Jabar Gaffney - An unstoppable receiving force, Gaffney was an All-American as a sophomore and a Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2001. He finished his career second on the UF receiving yards chart with 2,375 yards despite leaving after his sophomore season.
4. Reidel Anthony - It was an on-going debate over who the better player was in 1996, Anthony or Ike Hilliard. Hilliard was a touchdown maker, but Anthony was the better all-around receiver catching 72 passes for 1,293 yards and 18 touchdowns.
5. Jack Jackson - The first really big-time receiver in the Steve Spurrier era, Jackson made catching touchdowns on post routes look routine. He was an All-American in 1994 with 57 catches for 833 yards and a then SEC best 15 touchdowns.  

6. Ohio State

There was a time when Ohio State was a pure power running program with Woody Hayes more likely to wear maize and blue than to throw a forward pass. That was a long time ago. Ohio State has cranked out some of the best receivers in college football over the past 30 years with top pro prospects, All-Americans, and a Biletnikoff winner in Terry Glenn. It's not like the Buckeyes have had a who's who of all-star quarterbacks until recently; the receivers have simply been that good. How good is this group? Ted Ginn, Santonio Holmes, Michael Jenkins, and Chris Gamble aren't in the top five.

Ohio State's fab five ...

1. Cris Carter - Carter showed off the hands that would make him an all-time NFL great making highlight reel grabs the norm. He caught 164 passes for 2,725 yards and 27 touchdowns and set a then-Rose Bowl record in 1985 with nine catches for 172 yards and was an All-American in 1986.
2. David Boston - Boston left school after rewriting most of the Buckeye record book catching 191 passes for 2,855 yards and 35 touchdowns highlighted by the game-winning touchdown catch in 1997 Rose Bowl over Arizona State. He was unstoppable even when he was the focus of everyone's defensive scheme.
3. Terry Glenn - Glenn caught 15 passes for 266 yards and no touchdowns in his first two years in Columbus. And then he blew up with a Biletnikoff Award-winning 1995 season catching 64 passes for 1,411 yards and 17 touchdowns averaging 22.1 yards per grab.
4. Joey Galloway - An All-Big Ten performer on the field and in the classroom in 1993, Galloway used his otherworldly speed to be one of the premier deep threats in college football. He caught 64 career passes for 1,225 yards and 19 touchdowns.
5. Doug Donley -
The team's leading receiver from 1978 through 1980, Donley was a deep receiver averaging 21.2 yards per catch to finish his career on top of the OSU receiving charts with 2,252 yards on 106 catches with 16 touchdowns. Santonio Holmes could be here, but Donley did more in an offense that didn't throw.

7. Florida State

Considering how great the Florida State passing attacks have been over the last few decades, the program hasn't had too many superstar receivers on the collegiate level. Many put up huge numbers, but most were products of the system more than being great receiver talents. Obviously Peter Warrick is an all-timer, while players like Marvin "Snoop" Minnis, Craphonso Thorpe, Kez McCorvey, E.G. Green, Anquan Boldin, Andre Cooper and others have been part of the frighteningly strong attack. Everyone assumes that Fred Biletnikoff was among the greatest college receivers of all-time, and he was certainly decent, but he doesn't even make many lists of the all-time FSU stat leaders. He isn't even the best receiver in the history of Seminole football. That honor belongs to Ron Sellers, who held most of the receiving records for a long, long time despite finishing his career in 1968. Even though the lists are only supposed to count players since 1970, I'm putting Sellers on the list. 

Florida State's fab five ...

1. Ron Sellers - Most would assume Peter Warrick should be number one, but Sellers set way too many records and had too many huge performances to keep him out of the top spot. He had five of FSU's top six all-time receiving games going for 260 yards against Wake Forest and 259 against South Carolina. In all, he had five games with over 200 receiving yards and finished with 212 catches for 1,496 yards and 23 touchdowns.
2. Peter Warrick - The Dillard's incident tarnishes Warrick's career a wee bit, but his talent was undeniable highlighted by his show-stopping performance against Virginia Tech for the 1999 national title. He set the FSU record with 31 career touchdown catches.
3. E.G. Green - Sort of forgotten over the years among all the Seminole receivers, Green finished his career third on the FSU all-time receiving list with 2,920 yards and set the record with 29 touchdown catches.
4. Kez McCorvey - Charlie Ward's favorite target and the top receiver in 1993 and 1994, McCorvey caught 189 passes for 2,660 yards and 16 touchdowns.
5. Lawrence Dawsey - The leader of a great group of receivers when Florida State really started to get rolling under Bobby Bowden, Dawsey made 128 catches for 2,129 yards and 20 touchdowns even though players like Ronald Lewis and Terry Anthony took catches away.

8. Miami

Miami hasn't been the wide receiver school you'd think it might be considering how loaded the program has been at quarterback. There have been some great pro prospects and some good overall talents, but there aren't too many All-Americans and few college legends. Michael Irvin leads the way as the standard for the brash and cocky program, while players like Andre Johnson and Santana Moss were tremendous talents who have turned into NFL superstars.

Miami's fab five ...

1. Michael Irvin - Even though the program is known for its quarterbacks, Irvin might be the closest thing there is to being Mr. Hurricane. Irvin talked it, walked it, and always came though as one of college football's top playmakers catching 26 touchdown passes.
2. Santana Moss - Not just a great receiver, Moss was also an elite punt returner. He was the 2000 Big East Offensive Player of the Year setting the Miami career record with 2,546 receiving yards.
3. Reggie Wayne - While not nearly as electrifying as some of the other great Hurricane receivers, Wayne was a steady pass catcher setting the school record with 173 catches, 29 more than the school's all-time number two receiver, for 2,510 yards and 20 touchdowns.
4. Eddie Brown - While he didn't put up huge numbers, Brown was a first-team All-American in 1984 with 59 catches for 1,114 yards with 14 career touchdowns. His biggest performance was in the classic Hail Mary loss to Doug Flutie and Boston College catching ten passes for 220 yards.
5. Lamar Thomas - A star on national championship teams, Thomas finished his career second on the Miami all-time receiving list catching 144 passes for 2,271 yards and 23 touchdowns.


9. Pitt

Outside of Biletnikoff Winners Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald, the Panthers have had some good, but not outstanding receivers. However, Bryant and Fitzgerald were good enough to carry Pittsburgh into the top ten. Surprisingly, there weren't too many big-name performers during the heyday of Pitt football outside of Julius Dawkins, and there were few stars when Dan Marino was throwing the ball. 

Pitt's fab five ...

1. Larry Fitzgerald - The most consistent touchdown catching machine in NCAA history was a decent performance against Miami away from winning the 2003 Heisman. He finished his career with 161 catches for 2,677 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also set the NCAA record with a scoring grab in 18 straight games.
2. Antonio Bryant - Bryant led the nation in receiving in 2000 on his way to the Big East Offensive Player of the Year honor, All-America recognition, and the Biletnikoff Award.
3. Latef Grim - Grim never had a national breakout season, seeing Antonio Bryant take away the limelight in 2000. Even so, Grim finished his career as Pittsburgh's all-time leader in receptions with 178 grabs for 2,680 yards and 15 touchdowns. 
4. Julius Dawkins - Dawkins was a big-time touchdown-maker earning All-America honors in 1981 with 46 catches for 767 yards and 16 touchdowns. 
Dietrich Jells - Who? Very quietly, Jells had a fantastic career in the early 1990s catching 160 passes for 3,003 yards and 25 touchdowns averaging 18.8 yards per catch. 

10.(tie) LSU & Wisconsin

I know this is a copout, but I couldn't decide between the Badgers and Tigers. The last thing that comes to mind when you think of Wisconsin football is passing, but the Badgers put together enough great college receivers to made it hard to bump it out of the top ten considering the numbers the top players put up in a run-only offense. Throw in producers like Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr and Donald Hayes, along with the players in the top five, and the Badgers have had a stunning number of good players.

LSU has a slew of flashy receivers that didn't get enough work. Can you imagine what Michael Clayton and Devery Henderson would've done in a better passing offense? Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and Early Doucet add to LSU's tremendous talent level.

LSU's fab five ...

1. Josh Reed - The Biletnikoff winner caught 167 career passes for 3,001 yards and 17 touchdowns. He always seemed to be wide open.
2. Wendell Davis - The all-time leading receiver before Michael Clayton came along, Davis caught 183 passes for 2,708 yards and 19 touchdowns..
3. Michael Clayton - The only knock against the super-steady Clayton was that he didn't put up huge numbers against great teams. Even so, he was always dangerous when he was actually used.
4. Eric Martin - With a 17.3-yard per catch average, Martin tore up the SEC in the early 1980s catching 152 passes for 2,625 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Andy Hamilton - Totally unknown to most college football fans, Hamilton was a dangerous deep threat from 1969 to 1971 averaging 19.9 yards per catch finishing with 100 grabs for 1,995 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Wisconsin's fab five ...

1. Lee Evans - The two-time Biletnikoff Finalist and All-Big Ten star overcame a knee injury to be Wisconsin's all-time leading receiver. He was UW's stat leader even before his huge 2003 campaign when he caught 64 passes for 1,213 yards and 13 scores, highlighted by a 10-catch, 258-yard, five touchdown day against Michigan State.
2. Al Toon - The star of some good Wisconsin teams in the early 1980s, Toon caught 131 passes for 2,103 yards and 19 touchdowns while setting a then-Big Ten record with 252 yards in a 1983 win over Purdue.
3. Chris Chambers - The future NFL star was a top deep threat for two Rose Bowl winning teams. He finished with 127 catches for 2,004 yards and 16 touchdowns.
4. Lee DeRamus - The standard-bearer for a new wave of great Badger wideouts, DeRamus was the leading receiver for the 1993 Rose Bowl winners. He was poised for a huge 1994 before suffering a broken leg..
Tony Simmons - Wisconsin's greatest deep threat before the arrival of Lee Evans, Simmons averaged 20.1 yards per catch catching 99 passes for 1,991 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Honorable U.

The next ten greatest wide receiver schools since 1970 (remember, based on college production)...

12. Penn State - The main man: Bobby Engram
13. Notre Dame - The main man: Tim Brown
14. Oklahoma - The main man: Mark Clayton 
15. Texas - The main man: Roy Williams
16. UCLA - The main man: J.J. Stokes 
17. North Carolina State - The main man: Torry Holt
18. Texas Tech - The main man: Michael Crabtree
19. Illinois - The main man: David Williams
20. Syracuse - The main man: Marvin Harrison