Cobi Hamilton

Mid-season Biletnikoff check: Who’s leading the pack?

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Last season, USC’s Marqise Lee won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s finest wide receiver, beating out quality players such as Terrance Williams of Baylor, Stedman Bailey of West Virginia, DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson, Cobi Hamilton of Arkansas and Austin Hill of Arizona.

With this year halfway over, we’ve got another fine group of receivers vying for the award. Here are the top five candidates for the Biletnikoff at the mid-season point:

1. Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State — If the Biletnikoff was handed out today, Cooks would probably run away with it. Through six games, the junior already has 63 catches for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s caught at least two touchdown passes in five of his outings this year. He’s on pace to challenge the NCAA record for most receiving yards in a season (2,060) set by Trevor Insley of Nevada in 1999. Can he keep it up? With the meat of OSU’s schedule approaching, it’s going to be tough. Barring a collapse on his part, though, he has to be considered the heavy favorite to win his school’s second Biletnikoff, with Mike Haas being the other in 2005.

2. Antwan Goodley, Jr., Baylor — After catching a combined 19 passes his first two seasons, Goodley has burst onto the scene this year, emerging as the main deep threat in Baylor’s explosive offense. Goodley has 26 catches for 679 yards and six touchdowns and is averaging an incredible 26 yards per reception. The junior leads the nation with five receptions of 60 yards or more and has two of 70 or more. With his combination of speed and strength, he’s looking like a potential high NFL draft pick next spring.

3. Mike Evans, So., Texas A&M — We all saw the way Evans dominated against No. 1 Alabama, catching seven passes for 279 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown run late in the game.  The 6-5 sophomore is Johnny Manziel’s No. 1 target, with 32 receptions for 737 yards and five touchdowns and a 23 yards-per-catch average so far.

4. Jared Abbredaris, Sr., Wisconsin — Abbredaris has an amazing knack for getting open and has become the heart and soul of the Badgers offense. His resume this year includes a 10-catch, 207-yard effort against Ohio State. On the season, he’s got 35 catches for 646 yards and five touchdowns.

5. Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado — Richardson has overcome a knee injury to become one of the best receivers in the country. He’s perhaps the lone bright spot on what is shaping up to be another dismal Colorado team. On the season, he has 35 catches for 660 yards and five touchdowns. He’s slowed down a bit after opening the year with two 200-yard receiving games.

Honorable mention: Jeremy Johnson, SMU; Tevin Reese, Baylor; Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt; Jaelen Strong, Arizona State; Odell Beckham, LSU.

Sophomore Arkansas WR considering transferring

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One solid freshman season might be all Arkansas receiver Mekale McKay gives to the Razorbacks.

First-year coach Bret Bielema said McKay was “exploring some options” after practice Monday. “He and I had a conversation a week ago where he wanted to look at different options that could be available to him,” Bielema said.

McKay was the team’s second-leading receiver in 2012 with 317 yards and pair of touchdowns. With Cobi Hamilton gone, the six-foot-six sophomore was expected to take an even bigger leap this season. But Bielema indicated the fit just didn’t seem to be there with McKay. The receiver hasn’t been granted a formal release yet, but Bielema said he’s working to help him find another school if McKay decides he wants to transfer.

“I think during transition there’s going to be certain guys that really kind of just jump in and go full speed ahead, and there’s going to be others that maybe, it just isn’t the same,” Bielema said.

Cobi Hamilton expected to start for Razorbacks Saturday

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After missing most of the season opener due to injury, Cobi Hamilton should be back on the field for Arkansas this weekend.

The wide receiver suffered an undisclosed injury — it was only described as being “above the shoulder” — in the first quarter of the win over Jacksonville State last Saturday, but returned to practice earlier this week and practiced for a second straight time Tuesday.  John L. Smith said Hamilton is “fine,” while one of the head coach’s assistants signaled all systems should be go for the receiver vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

“He looked real good.  He’s running around full speed.  It looks like he’s ready to go, so hopefully get him a whole bunch of catches and let him light it up this weekend,” offensive coordinator Paul Petrino said following practice Tuesday.

Hamilton had two catches for 13 yards prior to suffering the injury.  Last season he had 34 receptions for 542 yards and four touchdowns, tops among every player at his position that returned to the Hogs in 2012.