The American Athletic Conference has been stacked when it comes to wide receiver talent in the last three seasons. In 2014, East Carolina’s Justin Hardy, Tulsa’s Keevan Lucas and UCF’s Breshad Perriman ran the show. In 2015, Tulsa’s Keyarris Garrett, East Carolina’s Isaiah Jones and Houston’s Demarcus Ayers were the best of the best. In 2016, Jones, Memphis’ Anthony Miller and SMU’s Courtland Sutton crushed opposing secondaries. Miller, SMU’s Trey Quinn and Sutton as well as UCF’s Tre’Quan Smith led the way last year.
As the Cincinnati Bearcats prepare for the 2018 football season, many of those players are no longer competing in the AAC, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented wideouts that will post a real challenge. Here are the three best.
Tie: James Proche, SMU and Dredrick Snelson, UCF
OK. I know I said the three best, but you look at the following stat lines and tell me who is better.
Player A: 40 receptions, 816 yards, six TDs, 20.4 yards per reception, 62.8 yards per game
Player B: 46 receptions, 695 yards, eight TDs, 15.1 yards per reception, 53.5 yards per game
Player A is the bigger deep threat and the more productive player in terms of yardage. Player B caught more passes and scored more. Player A is Proche and Player B is Snelson. Both will be immensely productive pass-catchers. They both play with two of the best quarterbacks in the AAC (Ben Hicks at SMU and McKenzie Milton at UCF) and are stepping into No. 1 receiver roles.
James Gardner, Miami-Ohio
Gardner doesn’t play in the AAC but he is still a wide receiver with a ton of talent who will be nearly impossible to stop. To UC’s credit, Gardner did not have a single catch against the Bearcats last season, while Kahlil Lewis tallied seven receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. Even with that game, Gardner put together 927 yards and 11 scores on 47 receptions and was named to the All-Mid American Conference first team. He had 750 yards and six scores on 45 grabs in 2016. It is extremely unlikely he will have zero catches against UC once again this year.
Trevon Brown, East Carolina
East Carolina ranked third in passing offense among AAC teams last season. Brown was the No. 1 target for that attack. He led the squad in receptions (60), receiving yards (1,069) and touchdown catches (seven). That was on a team that had Davon Grayson, Quay Johnson and Jimmy Williams. Those three are all gone, so Brown could be getting even more work in 2018.
The Bearcats know just how dangerous Brown can be, as he destroyed the UC secondary to the tune of 270 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions last fall, including this incredible catch and run.
The Bearcats are going to need a great deal of luck keeping the ball out of Brown’s hands.