Heading into the 2012 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation's leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall's stars could be the headline players next April for the 2013 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.
The Biletnikoff Award is given to top the wide receiver in college football. Last year's winner was Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Biletnikoff Award Winner:
Robert Woods, USC
Woods has everything going for him entering his junior season. He's got Matt Barkley, who may be the best passing quarterback in college football, tossing balls to him and also has the benefit of the Trojans' other significant weapons, wide out Marqise Lee and running back Curtis McNeal.
As if those weren't enough, Woods himself is extremely talented and has a physical skill set that is enough to overwhelm most collegiate defensive backs. There is no reason to believe that he won't dominate college football in 2012. Injuries or some kind of off-the-field issue look like the only possible things that could derail him.
Woods totaled 1,292 yards on 111 receptions with 15 touchdowns last year. He opened his sophomore season with a record-setting game against Minnesota, The Trojans wide out hauled in 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns.
Woods then broke his own record a few weeks later against Arizona, catching 14 balls for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He was a First-Team All-American for 2011. Woods caught 65 passes for 792 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is explosive with the deep speed to burn defenses on any reception. Even if Woods sees constant double-coverage, his talent should allow him to be dominant like Blackmon was a year ago when he won the Biletnikoff Award. Woods should be in store for a massive 2012 season.
Keenan Allen, California
There isn't much separating Allen from Woods. Considering USC's diversity in play-makers, Allen could conceivably receive more opportunities than Woods this fall. Like Woods, Allen has unique physical talent that allows him to be effective against double-teams. The Golden Bears lost No. 2 receiver Marvin Jones to the NFL, and as a result, they may force the ball to Allen even more in 2012.
The sophomore hauled in 98 passes for 1,342 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. He had huge games against some of the best teams in the conference with at least 150 yards receiving versus Washington, Oregon and USC. His production was down in the second half of the season as teams sold out to stop him. Allen caught 46 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is physical with defensive backs and doesn't shy away from working in the short part of the field. He is a tough runner with the ball in his hands and plays with an aggressive style. Allen can catch defensive backs by surprise since they don't expect such speed and quickness from someone his size. He will also benefit from the return of senior quarterback Zach Maynard. The signal-caller is Allen's half-brother, so chemistry is no issue for this duo.
If Woods has a drop in production in 2012, don't be surprised if Allen is the most productive receiver in the Pac-12 and a national leader. He is a special talent who has a serious shot at winning the Biletnikoff Award this season.
Biletnikoff Dark Horse:
Marquess Wilson, Washington State
There are few receivers returning to college football who have been as productive as Wilson. He has been a leading contributor to the Cougars' offense since his freshman season. The 6-foot-4, 183-pounder finds a way to make tough catches even with the consistent double-coverage devoted to him.
Wilson hauled in 55 passes for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman. The big wide out was even better as a sophomore, snatching 82 catches for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. His improvement from year one to year two was even more remarkable considering starting quarterback Jeff Tuel made only two starts because of injuries. The Washington State signal-caller is projected to be 100 percent to start out the 2012 season, so Wilson could continue his upward trend as a junior.
The 6-foot-4, 183-pounder is a big receiver who uses his height and reach to consistently make receptions over defensive backs. He has phenomenal hands with tremendous body control. Having Tuel return should really help as stability and consistency at quarterback was a major problem in 2011. Wilson carries the Cougars' offense, so he could have the ball forced into him more than USC's Robert Woods. Nationally, Wilson is an underrated player, but he could force people to sit up and take notice with another big season.
Honorable Mentions: Oklahoma wide receiver Kenny Stills, Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams, Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter, Tennessee wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers, Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King, Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope, Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Florida wide receiver Andre Debose, Arkansas wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce, West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin, West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey, Oklahoma wide receiver Jaz Reynolds, Baylor wide receiver Tevin Reese, Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon.