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May 9, 2013

Texas' top outside receivers

AggieYell.com's Jeff Tarpley continues his list of the best players in Texas with a look at the top outside wide receivers in the 2014 recruiting class.

1) KD Cannon, Mount Pleasant

2) Keenen Brown, Alief Taylor

3) Lorenzo Joe, Abilene Cooper (committed to Texas)

4) Dorian Leonard, Longview

5) Tony Upchurch, Pearland Dawson (committed to LSU)

6) Byron Daniels, San Antonio Madison (committed to Texas Tech)

7) Garrett Gray, Marble Falls

8) Jakari Dillard, Princeton (committed to Texas Tech)

9) Raelon Singleton, Crosby

10) Nick Alexander, Lancaster

The 2013 receiver class within the state of Texas boasted 11 Rivals.com four stars ranging from tall X receivers to speedy slots. That's double the number that the state had in 2012 and even with so many teams having gone to the spread offense and participating in off season seven on seven workouts, the 2012 class is much more representative of the normal talent level in the state. Thus, what may seem like a down year overall in the 2014 class really isn't.

Actually, the biggest difference between this year and most is the lack of a physically dominant prospect at the position. Last year, the state boasted tall, athletic types like Derrick Griffin and Ricky Seals-Jones, who both played AAU basketball. In 2012, Thomas Johnson was a sprinter playing receiver. In 2011, Trey Metoyer was 6 foot 2 and 200 pounds and already looked like an NFL player.

In contrast, the consensus top prospect in the state is Cannon, who's added some muscle since last year but he's still not the biggest wideout in the world. Physically, he could easily play the slot position inside. However, he more than makes up for it in other ways. He has great hands and ball skills, able to go up and get passes at the top of his jump. He's also able to run routes and move in and out of his cuts without losing speed and obtain separation. Last year at the Rivals Underclassman Challenge, Cannon beat any and all comers including top rated defensive backs such as Beaumont Ozen's Tony Brown and Hebron's Jamal Adams.

It's much tougher to separate the next two choices on the list. Both of them bring something different to the table and you can make a case for either of them being right behind Cannon.

Brown gets the nod because he is a big receiver who has surprising yards after catch ability. His feet are quick enough to make defenders miss and yet he also has the size and coordination to overpower them. He has huge hands which enable him to make one handed catches. He's not necessarily a guy who's going to get separation but he knows how to use his size, leaping ability, and hands to physically overpower defenders down the field. He's also not afraid to go up and get the ball in traffic and take hits to do so.

Joe played quarterback as a junior but as a sophomore he caught 48 passes and averaged 16 yards per reception. He's taller than Cannon and his quick feet enable him to run very good routes and get separation even though he didn't play the position last season. He's not a blazer but at the Dallas Rivals Camp earlier this spring he was consistently able to beat people deep.

Leonard is your typical X receiver at 6 foot 4. He doesn't have elite top end speed but he's actually very quick off the ball and gets into his routes quickly. In particular, he's very good at running corners off, obtaining lots of space to work in, and coming back for the ball on outs and hitches. He's got very good hands, looks the ball in, and can adjust to poorly thrown passes when he's on the ground. He's also more elusive than you would expect after the catch.

Upchurch is a thick guy who almost looks like a fullback or H back. However, he averaged 22 yards per reception last season on a team that didn't have much of a passing game. He's got very good hand eye coordination, more speed than you would expect by looking at him, and good elusiveness after the catch.

Daniels is a fluid route runner who's moving much faster than he appears to be. He can go up to get the ball and adjust it while he's in the air. He's got very good acceleration and the ability to make people miss once he gets going. Porter is tall and also plays basketball for his high school team. He's got some things to learn about route running but like a lot of guys who also play hoops he has very good hand/eye coordination and can adjust to the ball in the air.

Gray is a big, physical target who can get moving in the open field moreso than you would expect at first glance. He has good feet to get separation and with his size is going to win almost every jump ball. Dillard has good coordination and is good at adjusting to the ball and he's better after the catch than what you would expect from a guy with his height.

A&M Specific

The Aggies basically signed a two deep receiving corps in 2013, not only covering themselves due to the fact that multiple players exhausted their eligibility in 2012 but also taking advantage of a deep, talented crop within the state. They've only offered Cannon in the state and have trended toward bigger, more physical types out of state this year. So far, there hasn't much interest from the prospects that they have offered but it's not a "need" position and they have been selective so far in tagging highly sought after national recruits who will not make up their minds any time soon.

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