NEW YORK — Athlon Sports & Life Magazine came out with its annual list of the 50-best receiving groups going into the 2017 college football season on Tuesday and Texas Christian University inched a step closer to the top 10.
"Unbelievable weeks" by two of Waxahachie's own helped push the Horned Frogs into the top 15.
Athlon Sports' College Football Editor Steven Lassan said the move from No. 16 had to do with the return of John Diarse (33 rec, 442 yds and 3 TDs) and other key pass catchers as much as its 2017 recruiting haul.
"This is a group I think has a lot of potential for 2017. Last year's group had some issues with drops and inconsistent play but returns nine of the top 11 statistical wide receivers, including all-conference candidates in Taj Williams and KaVontae Turpin," he said.
While Big 12 Conference rival Oklahoma State University ranked No. 1, followed by the likes of Clemson (No. 2), Colorado (No. 3) and Penn State (No. 4), TCU's Horned Frogs' pass catchers were just outside of the 10 best at No. 11.
Turpin, a junior wide receiver, was cleared to play football on July 17. He was held from spring practices after academic issues arose, per Head Coach Gary Patterson. He played in only eight games as a sophomore because of injuries and finished second on the team in all-purpose yards with 986.
Lassan pointed out the how the additions of UIL District 10-5A talent helped push the needle forward for TCU.
"I think getting Turpin back to 100 percent will be a huge boost to this group, and Williams should be more comfortable in his second year on campus. The recruiting class of receivers factored into the ranking. Omar Manning and Jalen Reagor ranked as top 15 recruits among the Big 12's incoming freshmen and could push for snaps this fall," Lassan said. "The addition of Manning and Reagor outside and Snell as an out-of-the-backfield receiver only adds to the talent and potential this group has for 2017. If TCU can get more week-to-week consistency from quarterback Kenny Hill and eliminate some of the drops this group had in 2016, I would not be surprised if the Horned Frogs outperform our No. 11 ranking among wide receiver groups this fall."
Athlon Sports evaluates every wide receiver group from top to bottom, taking into account several factors: unit's overall strength (wide receivers and tight ends considered), depth and proven talent, previous production, and talent level on the recruiting trail. Lassan said they also look ahead in these rankings to factor in how they think a particular offense might perform in the upcoming year or if a coaching change might help a unit take a step forward from the previous season.
Reagor, a four-star 5-foot-11 and 185-pound receiver, is Texas Christian University's highest-rated signee of all time after stepping foot on campus ranked as the No. 96 player in 247Sports' 2017 class national composite rankings. He was also the No. 15 player in the state.
Snell, a three-star 5-foot-8 and 170-pound running back and receiver, received interest from nine institutions of higher learning — including the Lovie Smith's University of Illinois, Jim Harbaugh's University of Michigan and TCU.
Courtesy of Curtis Luper and Doug Meacham, the Waxahachie speedster inked an NLI with TCU. Luper, who shares a co-offensive coordinator role with Sonny Cumbie, is one of the new staff additions. They replace Meacham, the former Horned Frog offensive coordinator and current coordinator at the University of Kansas.
Snell excelled on the track, too, finishing the 100-meter dash with a 10.48 during the 2016 University Interscholastic League 5A State Track and Field Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium. With Reagor, Keontrey Jackson, and Damonte Wilson, Snell placed second and third in the 4X100- and 4X400-meter relay, respectively.
Head Coach Gary Patterson said their pedigree, preparation and work ethic were a boon during the fall camp and could add to their firepower when the season starts Sept. 2 at Amon G. Carter Stadium, seemingly supporting the reason for their rise in Athlon Sports' rankings.
“Snell and Reagor are two Waxahachie guys that have had an unbelievable two weeks,” Patterson said last Friday at Amon G. Carter Stadium. “They don’t seem to get tired, which is a tribute to the way they practice at Waxahachie. They are used to this kind of rigor and how we do things."
So will Snell's versatility and speed.
"Snell is a guy that's saved us. He’s playing running back," Patterson continued. "He’s doing all of that. He’s a 10.3 100-meter guy, so it makes him a mismatch for linebackers, and he’s not scared to run inside.”
Marcus S. Marion is the sports editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light and Midlothian Mirror. He can be reached by phone at (469) 517-1456 or across social media platforms @MarcusSMarion.