football-fbs flag

Andy Wittry | | August 19, 2021

These are the top 9 returning receivers entering the 2021 college football season

Preseason AP football poll: Breaking down the first 2021 rankings

Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith of Alabama has moved on to the NFL and he took his 142.8 receiving yards per game with him. In fact, Smith's receiving yards average was only the second-best nationally, behind fellow SEC wideout Elijah Moore (149.1 yards/game), but many of last season's top receivers do return to the sport this season.

Here are the top nine returning receivers in the FBS, based on their average receiving yards per game last season. We elected to sort based on receiving yards per game given the variance in games played during the 2020 season.

Raj Mehta | USA TODAY Sports Images Jack Sorenson had four touchdowns in his season finale against Akron.

1. Jack Sorenson, Miami (OH)

Receiving yards per game: 118 yards/game
Receptions: 18 receptions
Receiving yards: 354 receiving yards
Receiving touchdowns: 4 touchdowns

Miami (Ohio) played just three games last season but Sorenson averaged six catches, 118 receiving yards and 1.3 receiving touchdowns in that trio of games while posting a career-best 19.7 yards per catch. His four touchdowns tied his best mark in a season, but the previous time he had four receiving touchdowns in a season it took eleven games, not three.

In fact, all four of those touchdown catches came in a  road win against Akron, when Sorenson finished with eight catches, 177 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports Images Romeo Doubs broke the 1,000-yard mark in just nine games.

2. Romeo Doubs, Nevada

Receiving yards per game: 111.3 yards/game
Receptions: 58 receptions
Receiving yards: 1,002 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 9 touchdowns

Doubs managed to crack the 1,000-yard mark in just nine games last season as the favorite target for quarterback Carson Strong. Doubs steadily improved his receptions, receiving yards, yards per catch and receiving touchdowns in each of his first three season, posting career-best numbers last season.

The bulk of Doubs' production came in Nevada's first five games as he started the season with five consecutive 100-yard games, but he failed to crack that mark in the Wolf Pack's final four games. In road win over UNLV, Doubs caught seven passes for 219 yards (an average of 31.3 yards per catch), and he posted back-to-back three-touchdown games against Utah State and New Mexico. He had three games last season where he had at least five receptions and averaged at least 25 yards per reception.

TOP RETURNERS: Top 9 returning RBs | Top 9 returning QBs

Bethany Baker | USA TODAY Sports Images Dante Wright had 315 receiving yards in just three games last season.

3. Dante Wright, Colorado State

Receiving yards per game: 105.0 yards/game
Receptions: 20 receptions
Receiving yards: 315 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 0 touchdowns

Wright's Colorado State team played just three games last season but after a freshman season in which he had 57 receptions, 805 receiving yards and four touchdowns, he was on pace to best those marks as a sophomore, if you extrapolate his 2020 production.

He started the season off with a bang, as he hauled in 10 catches for 146 yards in a win over Wyoming. Then he backed that up with a 109-yard game against Boise State.

Nikos Frazier | USA TODAY Sports Images David Bell was a First Team All-Big Ten receiver last season.

4. David Bell, Purdue

Receiving yards per game: 104.2 yards/game
Receptions: 53 receptions
Receiving yards: 625 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 8 touchdowns

Bell was a First Team All-Big Ten receiver in 2020 after leading the Boilermakers with 53 receptions, 625 yards and eight touchdowns in just six games. In four of those games, he had at least 100 receiving yards, including 13 catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa. As a freshman in 2019, Bell was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an Associated Press First Team Freshman All-American.

Bell's single-game, season-high in receiving yards last season came against Nebraska, when he posted 132 yards on 10 receptions.

ON THE PRECIPICE OF PLAYOFF? 9 schools that have been ranked the most without making the playoff

Adam Cairns | USA TODAY Sports Images Chris Olave was Ohio State's leading receiver last season.

5. Chris Olave, Ohio State

Receiving yards per game: 104.1 yards/game
Receptions: 50 receptions
Receiving yards: 729 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 7 touchdowns

Olave elected to return to Columbus for his senior year, giving the Buckeyes arguably the best wide receiver duo in the country, along with Garrett Wilson. He was Ohio State's top receiving threat in 2019, when he compiled 50 receptions, 729 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, while tying the school record for receptions per game in a season with 7.1.

In Ohio State's win over No. 2 Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals, Olave had six catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Now, he's a preseason First Team All-Amercian, according to the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Jeremy Brevard | USA TODAY Sports Images Wake Forest's Jaquarii Roberson enters 2021 on a four-game streak with at least 130 receiving yards.

6. Jaquarii Roberson, Wake Forest

Receiving yards per game: 102.9 yards/game
Receptions: 62 receptions
Receiving yards: 926 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 8 touchdowns

Roberson is a preseason Third Team All-American and preseason First Team All-ACC selection, according to Pro Football Focus, after earning Second Team All-ACC honors last season and tying the school record with four consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards. In fact, he had at least 130 receiving yards in each of his last four games, including 12 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns on the road against North Carolina and eight receptions for 131 yards and three touchdowns against Wisconsin.

He has the chance to break that record in Wake Forest's season opener against Old Dominion.

In 2020, he set the program record for receiving yards average per game with 102.9 yards per game.

Brian Losness | USA TODAY Sports Images Khalil Shakir is a preseason Third Team All-American, according to Pro Football Focus.

7. Khalil Shakir, Boise State

Receiving yards per game: 102.7 yards/game
Receptions: 52 receptions
Receiving yards: 719 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 6 touchdowns

Shakir was named a preseason Third Team All-American, according to Pro Football Focus, as well as a player named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list and Maxwell Award watch list. In seven games last season, Shakir posted career-highs in receptions per game (7.4), while tying his career-best in touchdowns (6) and yards per catch (13.8 yards).

Shakir had seven catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns against Utah State and followed that up later in the season with 10 receptions for 139 yards and two touchdowns against BYU.

Raj Mehta | USA TODAY Sports Images Hassan Beydoun set a program record with eight catches per game last season.

8. Hassan Beydoun, Eastern Michigan

Receiving yards per game: 101.6 yards/game
Receptions: 40 receptions
Receiving yards: 508 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 0 touchdowns

Beydoun was a Third Team All-MAC pick last season after setting a program record for average receptions per game in a  season with eight catches per game in five games, which ranked second in the conference and eighth nationally. He had at least 100 receiving yards in three games, including eight catches for 136 yards in Eastern Michigan's season finale against Northern Illinois, and he had 96 yards in another game.

Northern Illinois Athletics Tyrice Richie led the MAC in catches per game last season.

9. Tyrice Richie, Northern Illinois

Receiving yards per game: 99.5 yards/game
Receptions: 53 receptions
Receiving yards: 597 yards
Receiving touchdowns: 4 touchdowns

Richie was a First Team All-MAC honoree last season after setting or tying career-best marks in catches (53), receiving yards (597) and touchdowns (4). His 8.8 receptions per game was the best in the conference and he had three consecutive games (and four total) with 100 receiving yards, including a 12-catch, 131-yard, one-touchdown performance against Western Michigan.

Aliyah Boston's double-double headlines this week's Starting Five in women's basketball

Aliyah Boston collected her 16th straight double-double against a ranked opponent with No. 1 South Carolina's huge 76-71 overtime win over No. 2 Stanford.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners