Projecting College Football’s Top 8 Receiving Stars in 2024
David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVFebruary 12, 2024

Projecting College Football’s Top 8 Receiving Stars in 2024

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    Tez Johnson

    Tez JohnsonChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    As the next wave of elite wide receivers arrives in 2024, a few standouts from the 2023 college football season are primed for stardom.

    Gone are superstars such as Marvin Harrison Jr. and Troy Franklin. However, on their respective teams—Ohio State and Oregon—there’s a previous 1,000-yard target ready for the featured role. Emeka Egbuka and Tez Johnson are names you should be ready to hear often.

    Early in the 2024 offseason, eight players stick out as potential household names in the fall.

    For clarity, the list is not necessarily a reflection of the receivers I believe will collect the most receptions, yards or touchdowns. Many of them will be around the top of those lists anyway, but the focus is players on projected top teams who, if healthy, should have impressive years.

Tetairoa McMillan, Arizona

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    TEMPE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 25: Wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan #4 of the Arizona Wildcats runs with the football after a reception past defensive back Chris Edmonds #5 of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first half of the NCAAF game at Mountain America Stadium on November 25, 2023 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Many factors influenced Arizona’s breakout season, but Tetairoa McMillan’s emergence played a valuable part of it.

    The sophomore wideout had made a nice impact in 2022, catching 39 passes for 702 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he climbed to 90 receptions with 1,402 yards and 10 scores last year

    Most notably, McMillan closed the season on a tear. He reeled in eight-plus throws for no less than 107 yards in the Wildcats’ last four outings, maxing out at 266 yards—the second-highest single-game total in program history—during the rout of rival Arizona State.

    McMillan is set to return alongside Noah Fifita, whose midyear emergence sparked Arizona’s run to a rare 10-win campaign.

Caullin Lacy, Louisville

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    MOBILE, AL - NOVEMBER 12: South Alabama Jaguars wide receiver Caullin Lacy (4) returns a kickoff during a college football game between the Texas State Bobcats and the South Alabama Jaguars on November 12, 2022, at Hancock-Whitney Stadium, in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    New team, same results?

    That’s the hope for Caullin Lacy and Louisville, which picked up the South Alabama transfer in the portal. Last year, he amassed 91 catches for 1,316 yards and seven touchdowns at the Sun Belt program.

    Lacy isn’t simply a one-year star, either. He collected 65 receptions, 812 yards and six scores in 2022, as well.

    Louisville, meanwhile, needs to replace top target Jamari Thrash and his 858 yards. No other receiver surpassed 407 yards in 2023, so Lacy is entering what, on paper, is an ideal opportunity to continue excelling.

Luther Burden III, Missouri

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    COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 11: Missouri Tigers wide receiver Luther Burden III (3) runs after the catch in the first quarter of an SEC football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Missouri Tigers on Nov 11, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Missouri signed Luther Burden III as a 5-star prospect in the 2022 cycle, and he started living up to the billing last year.

    Burden went for 96 yards and a touchdown in the opener, then ripped off five consecutive 100-yard performances. Later, he played a pivotal role in a dramatic comeback victory over Florida, finishing that contest with 158 yards—his sixth and final 100-yard day of the season.

    Plus, though he mustered three catches for 15 yards in the Cotton Bowl, his seven-yard score sealed the victory over Ohio State.

    Mizzou has a favorable schedule—especially in September—and returns quarterback Brady Cook, too. Burden isn’t an All-American lock, of course, but he should be a contender for another AP honor.

Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State

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    SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 23: Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka (2) runs with the football in action during a football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Ohio State Buckeyes on September 23, 2023 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Two years ago, Emeka Egbuka rose to prominence next to Marvin Harrison Jr. while catching passes from C.J. Stroud. Even as Stroud left for the NFL, Egbuka and Harrison opened 2023 with massive expectations.

    Unfortunately for him and Ohio State, injuries turned a promising year into a disappointing season.

    The hope is the 2024 campaign will be more like 2022, when Egbuka collected 74 receptions for 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns. No matter who’s at quarterback—the presumed answer is Kansas State transfer Will Howard—he’s certainly capable of a comparable year.

    Egbuka will have a chance to both rebuild his NFL draft stock and help the Buckeyes compete for a national title.

Nic Anderson, Oklahoma

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    NORMAN, OKLAHOMA - NOVEMBER 11:  Wide receiver Nic Anderson #4 of the Oklahoma Sooners makes a catch for a 19-yard gain against safety Anthony Wilson #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first quarter at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 11, 2023 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma won 59-20. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Nic Anderson’s debut was eerily similar to McMillan’s freshman year.

    As a freshman at Arizona in 2022, McMillan averaged 18 yards on 39 catches for 702 yards and eight scores. He didn’t command a large share of the spotlight because of 1,000-yard teammates Dorian Singer and Jacob Cowing, though.

    Last season, Anderson tallied 21 yards per reception on 38 grabs for 798 yards and 10 touchdowns. Drake Stoops, who also scored 10 times, paced Oklahoma with 84 catches and 962 yards.

    McMillan broke out following Singer’s transfer to USC; Anderson may do the same after Stoops exhausted his eligibility.

    The wild card is OU will be turning to Jackson Arnold at quarterback. As much as anyone might believe the recent prized prospect will thrive, it’s no guarantee. Still, Arnold and Anderson linked up seven times for 73 yards and a touchdown in the Alamo Bowl.

Tre Harris, Ole Miss

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 30: Tre Harris #9 of the Mississippi Rebels catches a pass, which was later ruled incomplete, as Cam Miller #5 of the Penn State Nittany Lions pressures during the second quarter in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 30, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

    Alex Slitz/Getty Images

    Tre Harris exploded onto the Ole Miss scene, grabbing six passes for 133 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Mercer. I’ve seen worse debuts for transfers.

    Nobody expected him to sustain that performance, but his production wavered throughout the season. After returning from a knee injury that cost him two games—and arguably three, despite his touchdown at Tulane—he surpassed 100 yards four times and failed to reach 30 in three others.

    Fix that up, and Harris could be dominant.

    After all, the former Louisiana Tech standout peaked at 11 receptions and 213 yards in a triumph over Texas A&M. Harris has a spectacular ceiling in Lane Kiffin’s offense.

    If the Rebels realize their College Football Playoff potential, it’s likely that quarterback Jaxson Dart and Harris had fantastic years.

Tez Johnson, Oregon

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    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - JANUARY 01: Tez Johnson #15 of the Oregon Ducks runs with the ball against the Liberty Flames during the 2023 Vrbo Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium on January 01, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Oregon must replace quarterback Bo Nix—the third-place finisher in Heisman Trophy voting—and 1,300-yard receiver Troy Franklin. Ordinarily, that combination of departures would be demoralizing for an offense.

    That’s not the story in Eugene.

    As the program shifts from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, the Ducks brought in Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel and Texas A&M receiver Evan Stewart. However, Gabriel’s favorite target will likely be Tez Johnson, a speedy wideout who turned 86 receptions into 1,182 yards and 10 scores last season.

    Johnson could have entered the 2024 NFL draft but returned to Oregon with a definite path to All-American recognition.

Isaiah Bond, Texas

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 02: Isaiah Bond #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide makes a catch against Tykee Smith #23 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the fourth quarter in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 02, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    One hero of Alabama’s fascinating 2023 season, Isaiah Bond carved out a place in program history with his shocking touchdown to stun rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The fourth-and-goal catch in the corner of the end zone ultimately helped the Crimson Tide make the CFP.

    Nick Saban’s retirement in January quickly led Bond to the portal, however, and he transferred to Texas.

    The main positive for the Longhorns is the return of quarterback Quinn Ewers, but they’re retooling the offense around him. Texas lost three-time leading receiver Xavier Worthy to the NFL, along with Adonai Mitchell, Jordan Whittington and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders. The team’s top returning pass-catcher is running back CJ Baxter and his 156 yards.

    In short: This should be Bond’s unit now.

    Given that he notched career-best totals of 48 receptions, 668 yards and four touchdowns with Alabama in 2023, Bond is a prime breakout candidate on the national scene.

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