While the star power at the wide receiver position has dimmed a little bit following some departures — miss you, Rashard Higgins — there are still plenty of more-than-capable weapons in passing games across the Mountain West and, as it happens, four of them were named today to the Biletnikoff Award watch list. The honor is given annually to the nation's most outstanding receiver, regardless of position.
The quartet is headlined by Boise State’s Thomas Sperbeck, who took a big step forward in leading the MWC in catches (88) and receiving yards (1,412) while also hauling in eight touchdown passes. He’s the unquestioned number one target on perhaps the conference’s most dynamic offense, which means he’ll get plenty of attention from opposing defenses.
Surprisingly, Nevada landed its top two returning receivers on the list, as well: Jerico Richardson and Hasaan Henderson. Despite underwhelming numbers from the Wolf Pack’s passing game as a whole in 2015, the duo did finish fifth and sixth, respectively, in receiving yards. They were also the only pair of receivers in the conference to gain as many as 700 yards, so for all of the hype surrounding James Butler in the backfield, don’t sleep on Richardson and Henderson taking another step forward.
Finally, UNLV’s Devonte Boyd should be stepping into his biggest season yet despite another ongoing quarterback competition. He caught 54 passes for 904 yards and seven touchdowns in 2015, and the Rebels will need his big play ability (he trailed only Sperbeck in 20-yard pass plays) to fight for bowl eligility in the West.
We’ve seen the kind of season it takes to become a serious contender for this particular honor, as Higgins was a finalist just two years ago, so it’ll take a lot to follow last year’s winner: Baylor’s Corey Coleman.