Dienhart: Big Ten East receiving corps unit rankings

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Dienhart: Big Ten East receiving corps unit rankings

B1G HIGHLIGHT - Penn State wide receiver Chris Godwin hauls in the touchdown vs. Illinois.

Having a strong running game is key to any team’s success. But a good passing game enhances any stout ground attack. And you need good wideouts to stretch the field.

[ MORE: Ranking Big Ten East offensive lines | Big Ten East predictions ]

This fall, there will be no shortage of good pass-catching options across the Big Ten East, headlined by Penn State. But Michigan’s corps also looks stout.

Here’s my ranking of the receiving corps in the Big Ten East.

1. Penn State. Talent galore. And that’s good news for the new QB, most likely Trace McSorley. Juniors Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton are returning starters and the bellwethers. Fellow junior Saeed Blacknall looks ready to emerge. The riches continue with sophomores Brandon Polk and DeAndre Thompkins. And keep an eye on redshirt freshmen Juwan Johnson and Irvin Charles. Junior Mike Gesicki is the top option at tight end for new coordinator Joe Moorhead and his up-tempo spread.

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2. Michigan. This is one of the league’s best groups with seniors Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh back. Chesson gets down the field, while Darboh is a physical target. And is there a better tight end in America than senior Jake Butt? Nope. That trio combined for 159 catches and 2,145 yards and 17 TDs last year. Sophomore Grant Perry and junior Drake Harris are quality depth for the new QB.

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3. Indiana. This is a group with depth and ability that is led by junior Simmie Cobbs, a big, physical target. Senior Mitchell Paige, senior Ricky Jones and speedy sophomore J-Shun Harris (who missed last year with injury) also are deadly targets who will help the new quarterback transition. Junior tight end Denny Friend is back after injury sidelined him the last two years.

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4. Ohio State. Michael Thomas. Gone. Braxton Miller. Gone. Jalin Marshall. Gone. Nick Vannett. Gone. Those are some big losses, but talent lurks in the wings. Sophomore Noah Brown looks like the next go-to guy. He could be a stud but is coming off a broken leg. Talent like sophomore Parris Campbell, senior Dontre Wilson, senior Corey Smith, sophomore Terry McLaurin, redshirt freshman Torrance Gibson and true freshman Austin Mack are primed to step up. Junior tight end Marcus Baugh looks like a big-time pass catcher.

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5. Michigan State. The loss of Aaron Burbridge hurts. He was the Big Ten Receiver of the Year. Senior R.J. Shelton is primed to be a top target. There is a cadre of exciting youngsters led by true freshman Donnie Corley, an early enrollee who is primed for stardom. Fellow newcomer Cam Chambers is another decorated recruit. Redshirt freshman Darrell Stewart is one to watch. Sophomore Felton Davis is primed to emerge, while senior Monty Madaris is veteran presence. Senior Josiah Price is an underrated tight end for a program that has produced some good ones of late.

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6. Maryland. This group looks good, as the top three pass-catchers from 2015 are back. And that’s good news for whoever wins the QB job. The unit is led by the Jacobs brothers. Levern–a senior–keeps getting better, while Taivon—a junior–is a blazer. D.J. Moore impressed as a freshman last season and could excel in the up-tempo attack of the new staff. Senior Malcom Culmer is a steady option. Sophomore Avery Edwards is one of several weapons at tight end. Junior Andrew Isaacs is back from injury to help at TE.

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7. Rutgers. Leontee Carroo will be difficult to replace. Senior Andre Patton needs to be a star. Fellow seniors Carlton Agudosi—a 6-6 target–and Janarion Grant, a speedster who doubles as a top return man, need to step up. The staff likes sophomore Dontae Owens. Senior Nick Arcidiacono and junior Nick Flanagan are good options at tight end in an offense that will operate at a quick pace.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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