ACC Returns Most Of Receiving Star Power In 2011

Receiving In Conference 2010
Departed Returning
Team Catches Yards Catches Yards %
Florida St. Seminoles 0 0 151 1742 100%
Virginia Tech Hokies 17 161 105 1577 91%
Duke Blue Devils 37 330 163 1845 85%
Clemson Tigers 27 268 121 1241 82%
Wake Forest Demon Deacons 22 260 79 897 78%
Boston College Eagles 18 280 79 1008 78%
North Carolina Tar Heels 54 598 115 1565 72%
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 13 214 26 521 71%
Virginia Cavaliers 51 783 126 1319 63%
Miami Hurricanes 51 781 81 1087 58%
N.C. State Wolfpack 94 1269 110 1000 44%
Maryland Terrapins 104 1277 58 696 36%
FSU's 2 Other Opponents
Departured Returning
Team Catches Yards Catches Yards %
Florida Gators 25 333 130 1377 81%
Oklahoma Sooners 69 723 170 2071 74%

Update: FSU lost Willie Haulstead to a concussion before the year. Boston College also lost an important receiver for most of the season.

The relationship between a quarterback and a receiver is an important one built on trust. Rarely does an inexperienced crop of receivers excel. It almost always takes a year for a receiving corps to be in the right spots, to run routes with confidence, and to learn the nuances of the position. That is why you almost never see highly touted freshmen receivers make an immediate impact, unless the kid is just a complete physical freak.

In recent years, we have seen Wake Forest return only 25% of receiving yards in 2008, Virginia Tech return only 13% of receiving yards in 2008, North Carolina run only 22% of receiving yards in 2009, and Clemson return only 34% of receiving yards in 2010. All of those teams struggled mightily in the passing game. Receivers ran bad routes, they dropped balls, and generally played like inexperienced receivers.

Of course, losing a large percentage of receiving yards isn't a guarantee that a team will struggle in the passing game. Florida State returned only 41% of receiving yards in 2009 yet had the best offense in the conference. Of course, the 'Noles also had the luxury of returning two veteran receivers who missed large parts of 2008 with injury. That truly is an outlier.

Given that, let's take a look at what each ACC team is bringing back in terms of receiving yards from conference play. The chart is limited to conference play because conference games matter and are typically not blowouts, meaning the good players play longer.

This year is absolutely loaded with returning receivers. Fireworks should fly early as most of the conference teams don't need time to adjust out of the gate. But I said most, not all. N.C. State and Maryland could really struggle, returning only 44% and 36% of receiving, respectively. In a normal year, those numbers wouldn't be rock bottom. But in a year featuring a ridiculous amount of returning receiver talent, the Wolfpack and the Terrapins might both struggle early relative to the other teams. And really more so the Terrapins than the Wolfpack as N.C. State opens with a cakewalk schedule, while the Terps have to face the excellent defenses of Miami and West Virginia.

Here are the top 50 players broken down by receiving yards. Those crossed out have moved on.

Name Team 2011 YR Position Catches Yards
Leonard Hankerson Miami (Fl)
WR 41 717
Dwight Jones N Carolina JR WR 38 698
Torrey Smith Maryland SR WR 50 690
Owen Spencer NC State
WR 43 628
Conner Vernon Duke JR WR 48 615
Dontrelle Inman Virginia
WR 33 582
Danny Coale Va Tech SR WR 28 581
Travis Benjamin Miami (Fl) SR WR 28 533
Kris Burd Virginia SR WR 36 485
Donovan Varner Duke SR WR 38 472
Willie Haulstead FSU JR WR 31 432
Jarvis Williams NC State
WR 33 429
Jarrett Boykin Va Tech SR WR 30 417
Chris Givens Wk Forest JR WR 23 398
Bert Reed FSU SR WR 35 386
Taiwan Easterling FSU SR WR 30 380
DeAndre Hopkins Clemson SO WR 33 376
Anthony Elzy N Carolina SR RB 25 338
Jaron Brown Clemson JR WR 21 330
Austin Kelly Duke
WR 34 327
Cooper Helfet Duke SR TE 26 306
Rodney Smith FSU JR WR 23 297
Bobby Swigert BC SO WR 23 295
Alex Amidon BC SO WR 10 294
Matt Snyder Virginia SR WR 21 280
Adrian Cannon Maryland
WR 30 261
LaRon Byrd Miami (Fl) SR WR 22 257
Erik Highsmith N Carolina SO WR 17 243
Jamie Harper Clemson SR RB 25 237
Ifeanyi Momah BC
WR 14 230
George Bryan NC State SR TE 19 214
Marshall Williams Wk Forest
WR 16 201
Dwayne Allen Clemson JR TE 23 200
Darrell Davis NC State
WR 15 198
Ryan Taylor N Carolina
TE 18 198
Marcus Davis Va Tech JR WR 16 192
Devon Brown Wk Forest SR WR 23 187
James Washington NC State JR RB 25 181
David Wilson Va Tech JR RB 10 174
Andre Smith Va Tech
TE 17 172
Mustafa Greene NC State SO RB 20 169
Quintin McCree Maryland SR WR 12 164
Beau Reliford FSU SR TE 14 159
Perry Jones Virginia JR RB 24 156
Desmond Scott Duke JR RB 20 155
Stephen Hill Ga Tech JR WR 7 155
Chris Pantale BC JR TE 18 154
Ronnie Tyler Maryland SR WR 12 149
Keith Payne Virginia
RB 10 124
Bryce McNeal Clemson SO WR 15 121

While 11 of the top 30 ACC receivers left this year, at least 15 of the top 30 stand to graduate this time around. And that's not including underclassmen, so 2012 could be a down year for ACC receiving.

We could be in for an ACC offensive year the likes of which haven't been seen since 2008.

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