The ACC was hit hard with graduation and a number of those talented receivers are now in NFL mini-camps. Today, we take a look at the next crop of talent filling the gaps and looking to make a name for themselves. This list isn’t limited to wide receivers, as I’ve included two tight ends with great ability. Of course, one is more of a hybrid…but we’ll get to that.
5. Cam Serigne, TE, Wake Forest
You may not know Cam Serigne, but he averaged nearly 10 yards per catch as a true freshman on 54 receptions. He runs solid routes and has a nice set of hands that helped him finish with team-highs of 531 yards and five touchdowns.
What makes his numbers more impressive were his true freshman quarterback and the fact his team simply couldn’t run the ball (1.3 YPC). Opposing defenses know Wake is going to pass and that Serigne is a favorite target, but he still made plays highlighted by two touchdowns in a 14-point loss to Clemson late in the year.
4. Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State
Rudolph and teammate Jesus Wilson had almost identical stats last season, but I give the edge to Rudolph on this list as he’s bigger and therefore has a bit more upside.
He looked surprisingly polished at times as a true freshman, stepping in to help a receiving corps that last some key contributors to the pros. He settled into his role as a third receiving option behind Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary. I can easily see Rudolph stepping up to be the number one pass-catching option for the Seminoles.
3. Bucky Hodges, TE/WR, Virginia Tech
Hodges is essentially a tight end in name only at this point, usually lining up in the slot or even out wide matched with a much smaller corner in some packages. I think we’ll only see that increase this season as offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler looks to use the tremendous size and athleticism of Hodges to create mismatches and open up good looks for the other receivers on Tech’s roster. The comparison to Jimmy Graham is so obvious, even Jesse Palmer can see it.
He was very productive as a redshirt freshman, scoring a team-high seven touchdowns on 45 catches for 547 yards. Tech has some very talented young receivers in Cam Phillips and Isaiah Ford, but I think Hodges’ athletic ability, versatility, and physical maturity put him a notch or two above for now.
2. Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina
Ryan Switzer has the kind of speed that keeps defensive coaches up at night. Before last season, he mainly tormented special teams units after scoring five touchdowns on returns as a freshman. In 2014, he took those skills over to offense where he showed loads of big-play ability posting long catches of 62, 63, 68 and 72 yards respectively in four different games. He’s small — just 5’10”, 185 pounds — but he can take a short pass and rip off huge chunks of yardage with his shiftiness and speed. He’s also more than capable of beating you downfield. He should have no trouble this season surpassing his 61 catches, 757 yards and four touchdowns of a year ago.
1. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
After breaking out as a sophomore, Williams is poised to post even bigger numbers with a healthy Deshaun Watson at quarterback. At 6’4″, he’s got great size and his hands a phenomenal as demonstrated by this casual one-handed snag in the Tigers’ spring game.
Last season, despite Watson’s health problems Williams amassed 57 catches for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns. Some of his performance will hinge on a healthy quarterback, but if those numbers increase again, don’t be surprised if Williams becomes the latest Tiger wideout to leave early and have an immediate impact on the NFL.
Stay tuned to Inside the ACC as our series continues.
As I feared would be the case, I missed someone and it’s been pointed out that I managed to forget Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd. He would likely be at the top of a revised list (pushing my guy Cam Serigne off the bottom) thanks to his eight touchdowns and more than 1,200 yards receiving last season.