College Football Discussion: Which School Is Wide Receiver U?5 min read

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John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog:

You have probably heard the names Linebacker U or Tailback U associated with college football programs with perhaps more than one school proclaiming to be a position U. Which schools truly deserve that distinction?

I used the following criteria to determine which school is truly a position U:

  1. One can certainly debate how good a player was in college. However, when it comes to being named an All-American, there is no debate. If a player was named an All-American, he had to be very good. Rather than add to a school’s claim of being “position U” with players who weren’t All-Americans, and debate how good they were, such as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Bernie Kosar or Auburn’s running backs William Andrews, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Lionel James, and Ronnie Brown, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd-team All-Americans factored into the selection and evaluation process.
  2. Only a player’s collegiate performance was taken into account and considered, and not what they accomplished as a professional. If a Heisman Trophy winner or an All-American was a bust in the NFL, that doesn’t diminish what they accomplished at the collegiate level. Their performance as a pro does not factor in or influence this selection process.

Also, occasionally a position change occurs for a player from his college to professional career so which position does the school get credit for? For example, should Terrelle Pryor count as a wide receiver for Ohio State?  That’s absurd. That’s why only their college career should count towards a being a position U.

In comparing each school’s All-Americans from the past 50 years, obviously some were greater than others. Past and recent greatness as well as consistency through the years are what constitute a school being chosen as a position U.

This is my look at the wide receivers in my series on which school should be known as Wide Receivers U.

If you asked the casual college football fan which school is Wide Receiver U, they might say Oklahoma State, or perhaps Alabama, and that’s understandable as both schools have recently had some outstanding wide receivers.

Oklahoma State had All-American wide receivers Hart Lee Dykes, Dez Bryant, Rashaun Woods, Justin Blackmon and James Washington. However, that’s all they had for the past 50 seasons. Surprisingly that’s less than half the number that the top three schools had to be considered for Wide Receiver U.

What about Alabama? The Crimson Tide had Wayne Wheeler, Ozzie Newsome, David Palmer, Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley, all All-Americans, but that’s it, just six.

There are only four schools that belong in the conversation to be called Wide Receiver U and each had 10 or more All-American wide receivers the past 50 seasons. When you have All-American quarterbacks, it makes sense to think they are throwing to All-American wide receivers and each of these four schools are in the discussion as well for Quarterback U.

At number four are the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Notre Dame had 11 All-American wide receivers the past 50 seasons. Beginning with Jim Seymour in 1968, Thom Gatewood in 1970 and 1971, Pete Demmerle in 1974, Tim Brown in 1986 and 1987, Ricky Watters in 1988, Raghib Ismail in 1989 and 1990, Derrick Mayes in 1995, Jeff Samardzja in 2005 and 2006, Biletnikoff Award-winner Golden Tate in 2009, Michael Floyd in 2011 and Will Fuller in 2015.

At number three, look to the Sunshine State and the University of Florida. In 1969, there was Carlos Alvarez as an All-American. Then the Gators remarkable run of All-American wideouts really began with Wes Chandler, a two-time All-American in 1976 and 1977, and then Chris Collinsworth, also a two-time All-American in 1978 and 1980.  Ricky Nattiel was the next Gator All-American wide receiver in 1986.

Then Steve Spurrier’s Fun and Gun Offense came along in the ‘90s and the parade of Gator All-American wide receivers began. First there was Jack Jackson in 1994, followed by: Chris Doering ‘95, Reidel Anthony ’96, Ike Hilliard ’96, Jacquez Green ’97, Travis McGriff ’98, Darrell Jackson ’99, Jabar Gaffney ’01 and Percy Harvin in 2007. In an eight-year period from 1994 to 2001, seven Florida wide receivers were All-American and the Gators had bookend All-American wideouts in 1996, their national championship season.

Even though Florida had the most All-American wide receivers of any school the past 50 seasons with 13, none have won the Biletnikoff Award and they have not had an All-American wide receiver since 2007. That is why the Gators are ranked third. A decade ago, and they were Wide Receiver U.

At number two, stay in the Sunshine state and it’s the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles had 12 wide receivers named All-American in the last 50 seasons beginning with Ron Sellers in 1968. Then Rhett Dawson in 1971, Barry Smith in 1972, Jackie Flowers in 1979, Lawrence Dawsey in 1990, Tamarick Vanover in 1992 and 1993, Kez McCorvey in 1994, E.J. Green in 1997, Peter Warrick in 1998 and 1999, Marvin Minnis in 2000, Kelvin Benjamin 2013 and Rashad Greene in 2014. None however have won the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver.

Which school is Wide Receiver U? The University of Southern California. The Trojans had 12 All-American wide receivers the past 50 seasons beginning with Lynn Swann in 1973, followed by: Erik Aftholter in 1988, Curtis Conway in 1992, Johnnie Morton in 1993, Keyshawn Johnson in 1995, Mike Williams in 2003, Dwayne Jarrett in 2005 and 2006, Steve Smith in 2006, Robert Woods in 2011, Marqise Lee in 2012 and 2013, Nelson Agholor in 2014 and JuJu Smith-Schuster in 2015 and 2016.

A USC wide receiver has been named All-American in six of the last seven seasons and nine in the past 15 years with Lee winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2012. This has catapulted USC to the top and earned the Trojans the right to be called Wide Receiver U.

Interesting fact:  Ohio State’s last All-American wide receiver was David Boston in 1998. Ohio State’s other All-American wide receivers the past 50 years were Chris Carter in 1985 and Terry Glenn in 1995.

Florida gator Photo credit: photo-gator on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

Florida State logo Photo credit: RMTip21 on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Notre Dame Photo credit: glenn~ on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC

USC Photo credit: Neon Tommy on / CC BY-SA

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John Baranowski

John Baranowski is a sports historian and contributor to newspapers, sports publications and sports websites. This and other articles written by him can be found on his blog: