Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper leads the 14 SEC wide receivers to make the initial watch list for the Fred Biletnikoff Award with four candidates in prime position to be the winner of the award announced this winter.
Here are the other SEC wide receivers to make the list in alphabetical order on the school’s name:
Kevin Norwood, Alabama
Quinton Dunbar, Florida
Michael Bennett and Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
Dorial Green–Beckham, Missouri
Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
Damiere Byrd, Bruce Ellington and Shaq Roland, South Carolina
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt
The SEC has four legitimate contenders to be a finalist, but of the foursome of Cooper, Matthews, Evans and Moncrief, I believe Cooper presents the best case to be the best bet at winning the Biletnikoff from the conference after a 1,000 yard freshman season that saw him record 10 touchdowns in his final 10 games.
Matthews makes a phenomenal case considering he led the conference in receptions with 94 and yards with 1,323 in 2012, but I think his production will take a slight step back with new quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels. He will still have an outstanding season, but I believe Cooper’s stats approach the 80-catch, 1,350 yards and 15 touchdown thresholds.
USC All-American and future top five NFL draft pick Marqise Lee won the award last year and is the prohibitive favorite to win the award again this year despite uncertainty at quarterback for the Trojans. If Lee wins the award he would be the third two-time winner in the past seven seasons joining Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon as repeat winners. I also expect Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins to be one of the eventual finalists in what should be a bounce-back season for the former All-American.
As dominant as the conference has been on the field and in other postseason awards, the Biletnikoff has been a tough award for SEC receivers to get their hands on. Since the award was created in 1984, only one receiver from the conference won and that was Josh Reed from LSU in 2001. That year Reed established records in receiving yards per game with 293 vs. Alabama, yards in a season with 1,740 and career yardage with 3,001, which has since been broken.
The award is named in honor of former Florida State wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff who was the Seminoles’ first consensus All-American and a member of the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.