Debate it: 2012 Big Ten reception leader

Yesterday, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart and BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina hit email to debate the 2012 Big Ten receiving TDs leader, the seventh in our series of Big Ten statistical predictions. Up next: Receptions. Who will lead the Big Ten in 2012? See Tom and Brent’s email thread in this post and vote for your leader, too.

RECEPTIONS
2011 leader: A.J. Jenkins, 90
Returning leaders: Jared Abbrederis, 55; Keenan Davis, 50; Antavian Edison, 44; Kain Colter, 43; Justin Brown, 35; Kofi Hughes, 35; Le’Veon Bell, 35.

[2011 Big Ten receptions leaders]

Brent: How many times can we say it in this series? No team figures to throw as much as Iowa, and when the quarterback of that team is James Vandenberg, the receivers can expect many catchable balls thrown their direction. That being the case, Keenan Davis, the conference’s second leading returning receiver, is my pick. If he stays healthy all season and someone emerges in the running game, a 70-80 reception campaign is not out of the equation.

Tom: This is another tough category to try to predict with so many good receivers gone. Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis is the top returning pass catcher after making 55 receptions in 2011. And I like his chances to finish on top in 2012. Yes, quarterback Russell Wilson is gone, but I think Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien will have a smooth transition under center in Madison. And he will look often for the sure-handed Abbrederis, who will benefit from defenses that are focused on stopping Montee Ball and the formidable Badger ground game.

[Read all of our 2012 Big Ten statistical predictions]

Brent: Abbrederis certainly has several factors working in his favor, the most important being star RB Montee Ball. Interestingly, my dark horse candidate plays for a team that hasn’t had a standout back in several years: Northwestern. While USC transfer Kyle Prater has yet to be ruled eligible for the 2012 season, he’s huge (6-5, 215 pounds) and skilled enough to be ranked among the nation’s elite receivers coming out of high school. On top of that, even without the benefit of a proven ground game, the Wildcats develop receivers. If Prater is ineligible, I go with Nebraska’s Kenny Bell.

Tom: How about Penn State senior Justin Brown? He caught 35 passes last season. And that number could go through the roof this fall playing in Bill O’Brien’s new offense that will favor the pass. Plus, senior quarterback Matt McGloin could be poised for a big season, looking often for Brown. Add it all up, and Brown—a 6-3, 209-pound target–could be a star receiver in 2012.

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