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August 22, 2006

No. 2 receivers productive playing second fiddle

Not everybody can be the proverbial "go-to guy."

But playing second fiddle at wide receiver doesn't mean these particular players are second tier. Some are underclassmen who someday will be first options. Others simply play opposite some of the best in the college game.

No coach would trade any of these 10. These are the guys who make teams pay when they decide to double the star receiver. These are the players who take some of the pressure off the No. 1 target.

In short, they're invaluable even if they're on a list of No. 2s.

A lot of these players would be the clear No. 1 if they went to a different school. As for someday becoming first options that could happen as soon as this fall for a few on our list.

They all have the talent to be the top guy, the circumstances just need to fall in place for them to get their chance.

Here are Rivals.com's top 10 No. 2 receivers:

Rivals.com 2006 Preseason Top No. 2 Receivers
1. Mario Manningham, Michigan, So., 6-0, 187
He has only one season under his belt, but the sky is the limit for Manningham opposite Steve Breaston. Manningham posted solid freshman numbers 27 receptions for 433 (16.0 yards per catch) and six touchdowns. With Chad Henne throwing, the numbers for this super sophomore could make a significant jump this season. He had two touchdown catches in the Wolverines' victory over Penn State and had a 100-yard receiving day at Wisconsin.
2. Steve Smith, USC, Sr., 6-0, 195
Life is rough when you're 11th on the school's all-time receptions list and you've never been the No. 1 receiver. But Smith's career for the Trojans has overlapped Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, so suffice it to say he runs in good company. Last season Smith had 60 receptions for 957 yards and five touchdowns. The question at USC is who will get the ball to Smith and Jarrett this season.
3. Rhema McKnight, Notre Dame, Sr., 6-2, 212
The California native was slated to be the No. 1 receiver for the Irish a season ago, but an injury in the Michigan game sidelined him for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Jeff Samardzija emerged in Charlie Weis' offense and put up astounding numbers. Counterpart Maurice Stovall was good enough to be a third-round pick in the NFL Draft. When healthy in '04 McKnight had 42 catches for 610
4. Joel Filani, Texas Tech, Jr., 6-3, 222
Red Raiders quarterbacks typically have more targets to throw to than any team in the country, and they try to keep everybody happy. Somebody from the Red Raiders was going to make this list; it was just a matter of deciding who is the No. 2. We're going with Filani, who lit up the Big 12 last season for 1,007 yards and eight touchdowns on 65 receptions.
5. Billy Pittman, Texas, Jr., 6-0, 198
Pittman doesn't get the ball too often (34 receptions), but when he does he's usually behind everyone on the defense. He averaged an astounding 22.1 yards per catch last season, 37.2 on his five touchdown catches. He and teammate Limas Sweed are both deep threats, so whoever replaces Vince Young had better have a live arm.
6. Greg Carr, Florida State, So., 6-6, 203
A four-star prospect coming out of high school by Rivals.com, the lanky Carr didn't disappoint in his true freshman season. He averaged 20 yards per catch and hauled in a team-leading nine TD receptions. It was the most touchdowns by a freshman in Tallahassee since 1993, when a smallish running back out of Louisiana crossed the goal line 10 times for the Seminoles. His name? Warrick Dunn.
7. Dallas Baker, Florida, Sr., 6-3, 206
With the number of Gators receivers taken in the NFL Draft the past 10 years, it's no shame being a No. 2 in Gainesville. Baker finally had a breakout season in 2005 with 52 receptions for 697 yards and five touchdowns. But with Andre Caldwell's return from injury, Baker still will be the second option.
8. Deon Butler, Penn State, So., 5-10, 166
Undersized and overlooked coming out of high school, Butler redshirted his first season at State College then burst on the scene last year in the presence of heralded true freshmen Derrick Williams and Justin King. Butler led the Nittany Lions in receptions (37), receiving yards (691) and TD receptions (nine).
9. Aaron Kelly, Clemson, So., 6-4, 180
Despite making only four starts, Kelly posted some solid numbers in his first season for the Tigers. Playing opposite Chansi Stuckey, the redshirt grabbed 47 passes for 575 yards and two touchdowns. With continued improvement in the running game, Kelly and Stuckey will have ample opportunities this season.
10. Robert Jordan, Cal, Jr., 5-11, 165
Limited to eight starts because of nagging injuries, Jordan still posted 34 receptions for 455 yards and four touchdowns. He was second on the team in each of those categories, and his presence makes running mate DeSean Jackson - as well as Cal's running game - more dangerous.
The Rivals Five
Here are five other No. 2 receivers to keep an eye on in 2006:
1. Craig Davis, LSU, Sr., 6-2, 195
2. Matt Trannon, Michigan State, Sr., 6-6, 235
3. Ryan Grice-Mullen, Hawaii, So., 5-10, 174
4. Anthony Gonzalez, Ohio State, Jr., 6-0, 195
5. Harry Douglas, Louisville, Jr., 5-11, 170

More Preseason Player Rankings:
Quarterbacks | Running backs | Offensive linemen | Kickers/Punters | Wider receivers | Tight ends

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