The Red Raider secondary won't have many opportunities to catch its breath in 2009. The Tech defensive backs will see the nation's best receiver and college football's best tight end. And in the Texas Longhorns' collection of wideouts they will face perhaps the finest receiving corps in the country.
12. NORTH DAKOTA: Ismael Bamba, a 6-0 185 pound sophomore is the Fighting Sioux's leading returning receiver having caught 21 passes and averaged 14.6 yards per catch last year. He scored no touchdowns. Kellen Leupp, a 6-1 200 pound senior who caught only two passes a year ago, is North Dakota's only other returning receiver who caught a pass in 2008.
11. NEBRASKA: Another good tight end in Tech's sights is Mike McNeill (6-4 240). He is the Huskers' leading returning receiver with 32 grabs for 442 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. Menelik Holt (6-4 220) looks like a tight end, but will operate on the outside for Nebraska. A year ago he caught 30 balls for 355 yards.
10. NEW MEXICO: Bryant Williams, a 5-11 190 senior who initially signed with Michigan State out of high school, was New Mexico's leading receiver in 2008. He snagged 36 passes, but only averaged 7.6 yards per catch and scored a lone touchdown. Chris Hernandez, a 6-3 190 pound senior complements Williams. He averaged 13 yards per catch on 33 grabs a year ago, and is a tough, physical receiver with great hands.
9. BAYLOR: Kendall Wright (5-11 180) will once again be Robert Griffin's primary target after leading the Bears in receptions with 50 and averaging 13 yards per catch a year ago. David Gettis (6-4 210) has a good frame and used it to haul in 29 balls and average 13.5 yards per grab in 2008.
8. RICE: Recent NFL draft pick Jarrett Dillard got all the ink, but Rice's leading receiver last season was tight end James Casey, who was also drafted. Toren Dixon, a 6-3 210 wideout from Baton Rouge and former Tech recruiting target caught 50 passes last year and scored five touchdowns.
7. OKLAHOMA STATE: Returning All-American Dez Bryant (6-2 215) is generally considered the best returning receiver in the country. If he ever learns to play on the road the way he plays at home Bryant will be truly phenomenal. The only other receiver of any consequence for the Cowboys is Bo Bowling (5-10 185), and off the field issues may prevent him from playing. He caught 10 passes for 200 yards in 2008, but will have to do better than that if he plays in 2009 to draw some attention away from Bryant.
6. KANSAS STATE: Brandon Banks (5-7 150) is one of the smaller receivers Tech will see, but is also one of the more accomplished. He caught 67 passes for 1,049 yards and nine TDs last year, and has speed to burn. Big Jeron Mastrud (6-6 255) is one of the best tight ends on Tech's schedule. He blocks very well and caught 38 passes for 435 yards in 2008.
5. TEXAS A&M: The Red Raiders know what Ryan Tannehill (6-4 205), a native of Big Spring, is capable of after he torched them a year ago. But Tech wasn't his only victim. He led the Aggies with 55 receptions and averaged 15.3 yards per grab. Not bad for a freshman, but the thought is that he will spend the 2009 season exclusively backing up Jerrod Johnson at quarterback. Sophomore-to-be Jeff Fuller (6-4 210) caught 50 passes and nine touchdowns and could emerge as one of the Big 12's best.
4. HOUSTON: Tyron Carrier is a 5-8 160 pound Smurf with speed and running ability. He caught 80 passes and nine touchdowns last year, and averaged 12.8 yards per catch. Patrick Edwards is a 5-9 175 pound former walk-on who is ultra quick. Before he went down with a nasty injury against Marshall, he caught 46 passes and averaged almost 14 yards per grab; every indication is that he will be ready to play this fall. L.J. Castile is a 6-3 210 pound former quarterback who averaged 17.1 yards per catch on 33 receptions last year and also caught eight touchdowns. He could be an NFL prospect.
3. OKLAHOMA: Ryan Broyles (5-11 175) leads the returning Sooners in receptions with 46 and averaged almost 15 yards per grab. After three non-productive seasons, senior-to-be Adron Tennell impressed during spring practice and is expected to be a big factor in the OU passing game. But the Sooner headliner is All-American tight end Jermaine Gresham. No other tight end in the nation has his combination of size and athleticism. Gresham is a matchup nightmare.
2. KANSAS: Kerry Meier (6-3 220) was a Biletnikoff Award candidate last year after catching a school record 97 passes. Also caught nine touchdowns. He's the ultimate possession receiver. Dezmon Briscoe (6-3 200) had a similarly productive year catching 92 balls and 15 touchdowns. He averaged 15.3 yards per catch and will be one of the most dangerous receivers Tech will see in 2009.
1. TEXAS: Jordan Shipley (6-0 190) could be one of the Big 12's best. He has good speed and is excellent with the ball in his hands. A year ago he caught 89 passes and 11 touchdowns. Brandon Collins (6-0 170) is an under-the-radar type, but did catch 35 passes last season. James Kirkendoll (5-11 175) reportedly had a strong spring after catching 21 passes for 221 yards in 2008. Malcolm Williams (6-3 220) is squarely on the radar. He caught only 17 passes in 2008 but averaged 18 yards per grab. Williams looks to be Texas' next superstar wideout.