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NCAA Football: Houston at South Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

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2022 AAC Preseason Position Previews: Wide Receiver

Which AAC wide receiver room is the best? Which have questions to answer?

The American Athletic Conference is no stranger to top wide receivers.

Over recent seasons, the likes of Courtland Sutton, DeVante Parker, Zay Jones, and Anthony Miller have walked through the locker rooms of AAC programs before making various contributions in the NFL.

Even recently, players like Alec Pierce and Danny Gray were selected inside the first two days of the 2022 NFL Draft after successful seasons for Cincinnati and SMU respectively.

While players like Pierce and Gray have departed, the good news for fans of the AAC is that the conference still features strong wide receivers who will inevitably have big-time seasons for their teams.

For the 2022 season, we’ve separated each team's wide receiver room into different tiers, which are:

Elite: Self-explanatory tier but these teams are dominant at wide receiver and will be at the top of the conference in terms of production.

Second Tier: These teams have talent at wide receiver but questions exist at the position.

Wait and See: These teams have more than a couple of questions left to be answered at wide receiver.


Elite

Houston: I’m not exactly saying anything new here but Nathaniel Dell is the best wide receiver in the conference. Last season, “Tank” Dell posted 1,329 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns, and 90 receptions, all figures which led the conference. His nickname is fitting because frankly, there might not be a defensive player who can consistently catch him.

Behind him is a little murky with the departures of Jake Herslow (graduation) and Jeremy Singleton (transfer) but KeSean Carter returns with some production under his belt, and the likes of Sam Brown from West Virginia via the transfer portal should help ease some worry in the room. Overall, the inclusion of Dell makes this room one of the best in the conference.

UCF: Surpassing Dell at the top is difficult but UCF’s Ryan O’Keefe makes a strong argument for being as good. O’Keefe finished last season with 812 yards and 7 touchdowns on 84 receptions, earning second-team All-AAC honors from conference coaches.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Central Florida
UCF wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe is expected to be one of the best wide receivers in the AAC.
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Next to him will be Kobe Hudson, who might be just as fast as O’Keefe, which is saying something. The Auburn transfer played a solid role with the Tigers last season too, totaling 580 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Alabama transfer Javon Baker didn’t contribute as much for the Crimson Tide with just 101 yards in 12 games of action but the Atlanta native is a former composite four-star recruit with loads of potential.

Tulsa: The combination of Keylon Stokes and JC Santana brings a lot of experience with 64 games played between the two and last season, they helped elevate the Tulsa passing game with a combined 1,188 receiving yards.

Kentucky transfer Isaiah Epps has good size at 6’2” and has played in 43 games for the Wildcats, so there’s a good chance he can provide some good impact for the Tulsa offense.

Wait and See

Cincinnati: There’s an Alec Pierce-sized hole that needs replacing at Nippert Stadium.

Tre Turner is an incredibly talented wide receiver who offers a special amount of explosiveness, but he’ll need to take a huge step forward to replace what Pierce offered to the Bearcats’ offense.

The return of Tyler Scott also offers some promise, as does Hawai’i transfer Nick Mardner but there are simply too many question marks to place them in the “elite” tier.

SMU: There’s a chance that at the end of the season SMU has one of the best wide receiver rooms in the conference but there are some questions that need to be answered first.

The return of Rashee Rice - who posted a 670 yards and 9 touchdowns last season - will help ease some concerns following the departure of both Reggie Roberson and Danny Gray but that’s still 1,277 yards and 14 touchdowns that need to be filled from the departure of Roberson and Gray.

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Cincinnati
SMU WR Rashee Rice
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The good news for Mustang fans is that North Carolina transfer Beau Corrales and Texas transfer Joshua Moore should help replace some of that lost production, it may just take an adjustment period.

USF: After posting 715 yards and two scores, Xavier Weaver offers a sense of reliability inside the room. He’ll likely be USF’s best pass catcher and could also be the team’s best offensive player.

Clemson transfer Ajou Ajou was a top 45 wide receiver recruit by 247Sports in the 2020 recruiting class but he didn’t play much for the Tigers. Still, the Canadian import might have more untapped potential than any receiver in the conference. Also, keep an eye on North Carolina transfer Khafre Brown, who had 337 receiving yards in 2020.

Tulane: Shae Wyatt returns after posting 376 yards and three touchdowns in 2021, while Duece Wyatt has 843 yards and 9 touchdowns and will return for a third season with the Green Wave offense.

Jha’quan Jackson is one of the most versatile players in the conference, posting 1,003 all-purpose yards for the Green Wave but he’s been primarily a special teamer for Tulane.

There’s a chance this offense, and the wide receiver room, looks better in 2022 but right now, there are some questions about who steps up and becomes the team’s number one target.

East Carolina: CJ Johnson has loads of potential and talent and has posted 1,530 yards and 11 touchdowns in 27 career games. If he stays healthy and eligible - the Greenville, NC native was suspended earlier this year but has since returned to the program - there is a real chance he breaks out in 2022.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 21 East Carolina at Temple Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The addition of Isaiah Winstead from Toledo brings a blend of production (949 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2020 and 2021) and experience, with the Richmond, Va. having three seasons of action under his belt. Jsi Hatfield is an explosive player who will make an impact down the field too but overall, this offense will rely some on Johnson to reach its full potential.

Wait and See

Memphis: Replacing Calvin Austin III will not be easy and likely the hole left by him won’t be filled overnight but there may be some promise in this room. Javon Ivory is always a threat, averaging 14.2 yards per catch a season prior, while Eddie Lewis returns after adding 349 yards himself.

Gabriel Rodgers and Roc Taylor could take steps forward and the addition of Iowa State transfer Joe Scates gives this room some options but overall, there are enough questions to leave a sense of uncertainty.

Temple: After leading the team in receiving, Jose Barton returns for another season, which should give this Temple room a boost in some way. The receiver room, however, does have to replace the production of Randle Jones, who finished with 476 receiving yards.

The likes of Amad Anderson Jr., who had 100 yards against Memphis last season, and Georgia Tech transfer Adonicas Sanders may step up and contribute in different ways but this room still needs players to rise to the top.

Navy: Unless Navy underwent a top-secret mission where they switched from the triple-option offense to an offense focused on passing the football, this room won’t see much in production through the air.

Still, this room provides value to the Midshipmen’s offense in the name of run blocking. Replacing Mychal Cooper, who led the group in snaps won’t be easy - especially when you consider how solid of a run blocker he was last season - but Jayden Umbarger should provide some familiarity for the group.

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