trey smith

2020 Unit Rankings – Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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In previous posts, the Vols quarterbacks and running backs have both ranked No. 4 in the SEC. As we’ll see over the next several days, there are three other units that also rank among the Top 4 in the SEC. The wide receiving corps, however, isn’t one of them.

2020 SEC Pass-Catcher Rankings

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There’s a lot of symbiosis in college football, and this is especially true among quarterbacks and wide receivers/tight ends. These rankings, for the most part, try to view the respective units without regard to the other positions on which they rely.

When you view them that way, LSU ends up on top, due primarily to the return of Ja’Marr Chase, who’s a monster. He is joined by Terrace Marshall and a bunch of others as well, so the Tigers’ pass-catchers are an able bunch.

Behind LSU, there’s a logjam of teams that look very similar. Alabama gets the edge for No. 2 with the return of Da’Vonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, but A&M and Kentucky aren’t too far behind. Florida’s an interesting study, as the Gators don’t really appear to have a superstar wide receiver, but do have an excellent pass-catcher in tight end Kyle Pitts and a swarm of other productive guys.

Why are the Auburn Tigers No. 5 if they return 1,948 total yards among their pass-catchers (third-most in the league) and tie for fourth in unit recruiting ranking? I have to look this up every time because it looks wonky the way it is presented, but there’s a reason for it. The rankings aren’t just based on returning production, but also on projected production, a number that isn’t (but probably should be) included in the presentation of data. The Auburn receiving corps loses very little from last year, so its returning production numbers are high, but its projected production is low compared to other teams because they weren’t very productive last year. It’s close, though.

The Vols rank a lowly No. 10 on this list. This is, by far, the biggest question in my mind for the team. A little peek behind the curtain, though: As I said, the calculations are largely based on both last year’s production and how much of it returns. There is a flaw in the system, though, in that it fails to account for good, experienced players who, for whatever reason, didn’t play the prior year. Both we and the machines tend to forget those guys. So these numbers don’t know about Tennessee’s Brandon Johnson, who appears to have made a calculated decision to redshirt last season so he could be available this fall when the team needs him more. We’ll see.

Your thoughts

What do y’all think? Where did we get it right? Where are we wrong?

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