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Let's Play Catch

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - They often times make quarterbacks look good, while also keeping defenses honest, allowing tailbacks to chew up the yardage on the ground. These players are the blurs on the outside, the ones that blow past defensive backs effortlessly, or throw caution to the wind and sacrifice their bodies over the middle, just to move the chains.

The wideouts, flankers and slotbacks may have different titles, but it is all about catching the football downfield and making something happen with it.

In 2002, Michigan State's Charles Rogers and Miami-Florida's Andre Johnson stood at the head of the class in terms of talent among the wide receiver sect. For their efforts, they were drafted second and third in the NFL Draft, by the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans, respectively.

So who exactly will answer the bell this year, aiming to take home the Biletnikoff Award and be called the very best at the position? Here are just a few of the talented receivers that will be seen on highlight reels across the nation in 2003.

Reggie Williams
Reggie Williams could very well be the best receiver in the country and is just coming into his own.
REGGIE WILLIAMS: At 6-4, 225 pounds, there isn't much to dislike about this Washington Husky. He could very well be the best receiver in the country and is just coming into his own. As a sophomore last year all he did was catch 94 balls, for 1,454 yards and 11 TDs. Yes, Washington's offense is predicated on the pass, but even though everyone knows it, defenses still can't stop Williams. With Cody Pickett back under center, similar numbers, if not better, are expected in what could be Williams' last season before jumping to the NFL.

ROY WILLIAMS: The surname is infectious this season, as this Williams will also be among the nation's elite pass catchers. The 6-4, 210 pound Texas Longhorn could have been a top-10 selection in this year's NFL Draft, but decided to return to Austin for one more season. Although there will be a new field general under center with Chris Simms moving on, it won't matter with a full stable of receivers to go to. The go-to-guy however, will be Williams, who actually caught less balls last year (64), than in 2001 (78), but made the most of those grabs, going for 1,142 yards (17.8 ypc) and 12 TDs.

MIKE WILLIAMS: Make it three Williams in a row. This version plays in Southern California for the Trojans. He may have been just a freshman last season, but he sure didn't play like it. The 6-5, 215 pound Trojan only officially started two games in 2002, but that certainly didn't prevent him from becoming the team's top option downfield. His numbers were unbelievable, hauling in 81 balls, for 1,265 yards (NCAA freshman record) and 14 TDs, earning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors. This season, he won't have the Heisman Trophy winner (Carson Palmer) throwing him the ball, but former Purdue QB Brandon Chance will still look to Williams to lead the way.

RASHAUN WOODS: Roy Williams gets all the national coverage, but he may not even be the best receivers in the Big 12. This Oklahoma State Cowboy had a huge season a year ago, earning All-American honors, while rewriting the OSU record books. The 6-2, 190-pound Woods caught an amazing 107 balls in 2002, for 1,659 yards and 17 TDs. He could have departed for the NFL after such a campaign, but opted to return for another go at it. Woods will be one of the premier pass catchers in the nation in 2003, and could again put up better numbers than the guys ahead of him on this list.

LARRY FITZGERALD: Another freshman phenom, the 6-3, 210-pound Panther is the next in what has become a long line of great Pittsburgh receivers. Filling the void left by former Biletnikoff Award winner Antonio Bryant wasn't supposed to be easy, but Fitzgerald made it look that way by catching 69 balls, for 1,005 yards and 12 TDs in his first season in Western Pennsylvania. With a veteran signal-caller back (Rod Rutherford) and a competent rushing attack (Brandon Miree), the numbers could improve for this tough-as-nails wideout.

*WILDCARD: KELLEN WINSLOW JR: I know, he is officially playing the tight end position, but there is no doubt who gets the first look when Miami passes the ball. Even with All-American wideout Andre Johnson and All-American tailback Willis McGahee getting their hands on the ball often last year, the Hurricanes opted to go to Winslow more than anyone else downfield. At 6-5, 235 pounds, Winslow is too fast to be covered by a linebacker and too big to be handled by a defensive back. He led the 'Canes in receptions last season as a sophomore, finishing with 57 receptions, for 726 yards and eight scores. He may carry the title of tight end, but there is no doubt that he is a difference-maker as a receiver.

Others to Watch: Bernard Berrian (Fresno State), Lee Evans (Wisconsin), Michael Clayton (LSU), Darius Watts (Marshall), Craig Bragg (UCLA), Michael Jenkins (Ohio State), Braylon Edwards (Michigan), Jerricho Cotchery (NC State), Keary Colbert (USC) and Josh Davis (Marshall).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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