In the ever-changing world that is Sun Belt football, ranking the top playmakers certainly opens eyes to just how talented the conference should be in 2023. The Sun Belt WR rankings for 2023 are every bit an indicator of that, specifically in Conway, South Carolina, where the top two receivers will be suiting up this fall.
2023 Sun Belt WR Rankings
Unlike our previous rankings (QB and RB), the 2023 Sun Belt WR rankings are shedding light on more individuals than units. While the quarterback rankings in each conference outlined the strength of a clear-cut starter, they were still based on the strength of the QB room in some situations, albeit a small amount.
The 2023 Sun Belt WR rankings are truly a list of the best wide receivers we project to see on the field based on what they’ve shown in their collegiate careers to date. There are certainly some players who are expected to break out, but this list aims to highlight the known commodities at this stage of the offseason.
Wide receiver play is far more than statistics, and the more a receiver has shown over his time on the field, the higher they’ll rank here.
1) Sam Pinckney, Coastal Carolina
Once upon a time, the 6’4″, 215-pound Sam Pinckney was dominating the field against Coastal Carolina. After four seasons at Georgia State, Pinckney transferred north to the Chanticleers and broke out in a big way for Coastal in 2022.
Pinckney hauled in 71 passes for 996 yards, averaging 14 yards per catch. His big-play ability was on display in seemingly every game, as he hauled in at least four receptions in all but two games last year. Pinckney also went over 100 yards in four games, doing the majority of his work against the opposing defense’s top cornerback.
Pinckney’s got all the tools to dominate once again as he and his quarterback Grayson McCall form one of the top QB-WR duos in all of college football.
MORE: Sun Belt QB Rankings
2) Jared Brown, Coastal Carolina
As if having the No. 1 option from our Sun Belt WR rankings in 2023 wasn’t enough, the Chants have the No. 2 spot locked down as well. After taking a redshirt season in 2021, Jared Brown blew the doors off his expectations a season ago.
While Pinckney won outside, Brown became the go-to target on the inside, working inside-out on his way to a 49-catch, 789-yard, six-touchdown season.
Brown is truly a game-changer with the football in his hands, and Coastal does a great job of manufacturing touches. In addition to his receiving production, he ran the ball 20 times for 187 yards and a score last year.
Brown is a true threat and an impressive complement to the big-play Pinckney on the outside.
3) Tyrone Howell, UL-Monroe
One of the biggest impact transfers to the Sun Belt last year, Tyrone Howell was projected to play a major role in UL-Monroe’s offense in 2022 — and he delivered. The former Kansas State Wildcat caught 50 passes for 852 yards and six touchdowns, averaging a ridiculous 17 yards per catch.
Howell stands at 6’4″ and 202 pounds, bringing with him a massive catch radius and underrated routes. He’ll blow by defenders in the open field once he picks up steam and has plenty of juice in the short area of the field to win off the line of scrimmage.
While there may be questions at the quarterback position for ULM, it doesn’t seem to matter who is throwing the football Howell’s way. He’ll win outside, and win big, making him an extremely valuable commodity for the Warhawks in 2023.
4) Khaleb Hood, Georgia Southern
Improving his game every year, Khaleb Hood had his best year to date in 2022. The sky seems to be the limit for Hood after hauling in 925 yards on 87 receptions last year.
Hood is a dominant speedster with the ball. A decorated track star, he does the majority of his damage after the catch, but he’s a crafty route runner that often gets overlooked. Despite a shallow depth of target, Hood’s after-the-catch ability alone allowed him to average more than 10 yards per catch in 2022.
5) Ashtyn Hawkins, Texas State
With game-changing speed, stadium-rocking elusiveness, and bonafide star potential, Ashtyn Hawkins is absolutely among the best interior receivers in college football. Had he played all 12 games, Hawkins certainly would’ve come close to eclipsing 1,000 yards in 2022.
Nevertheless, he did more than enough to showcase his value to the Bobcats in just nine outings a season ago.
Hawkins wins with his athleticism and agile footwork. He’ll make defenders miss without the ball in his hands and creates natural separation with that athleticism. Hawkins is a special player with the ball in his hands, no matter how he gets it, and is a threat to take it the distance with even the slightest of creases.
With what is expected to be improved quarterback play, Hawkins should have a career year in 2023.
6) Caullin Lacy, South Alabama
After Jalen Tolbert and Jalen Wayne paved the road, Caullin Lacy’s time to shine is officially here. Yet, very quietly last year, Lacy broke out with 816 yards on 65 catches and six touchdowns.
Lacy plays much bigger than his size and frame would indicate, and he’s special with the ball in his hands. A former high school running back, South Alabama is crafty with ways to find Lacy the football, and he eats up the yards after the catch perhaps better than anyone else in the Sun Belt.
7) Javon Ivory, South Alabama
Javon Ivory is the epitome of a versatile weapon at receiver. Ivory can win outside or inside and at every level of the field. His DB background helps pave the way for terrific ball skills and perhaps even better body control.
Ivory is a disciplined route runner with no wasted motions. He’ll eat up cushion and create his own separation on any stem or route break. The only ones that will dislike watching Ivory are his opponents this season.
8) Corey Rucker, Arkansas State
Back like he never left, Corey Rucker returns to Arkansas State after hauling in 14 touchdowns over his first two seasons with the program. In 2022, Rucker transferred to South Carolina, making one appearance and just one reception (a 52-yard touchdown) for the Gamecocks.
If his first two seasons in Jonesboro are any indication, Rucker is ready to blow up yet again. As it stands now, Rucker is absolutely one of the biggest impact transfers to the conference in 2023.
Rucker recorded over 1,200 yards in his first two seasons for the Red Wolves, including a freshman campaign that saw him average over 28 yards per catch. He’s a big-play threat no matter where he lines up and gives whichever quarterback who wins the starting job a reliable pass-catching option underneath.
9) Makai Jackson, App State
A finalist for the prestigious Jerry Rice Award as the nation’s top FCS freshman, Makai Jackson has transferred to Appalachian State for the 2023 season and beyond. Last year, Jackson hauled in a whopping 85 receptions for 991 yards with nine touchdowns at Saint Francis.
Like Elijah Sarratt (right below him here and now at JMU), Jackson was a first-team All-NEC selection wide receiver and an FCS All-American. There’s a lot to like about his game, most notably his versatility, as Jackson can win no matter where he has the ball.
Jackson may be the top incoming slot receiver transfer and will feature heavily in App State’s offense. Pairing that with his ability to turn something into nothing with his after-the-catch ability, Jackson could eclipse 1,000 yards as early as his first year.
10) Elijah Sarratt, JMU
You would be wise to know the name Elijah Sarratt well ahead of the 2023 season for JMU. The former St. Francis receiver transfers to Harrisonburg after being named an FCS All-American and first-team All-NEC a season ago.
Sarratt hauled in 13 touchdowns in just 42 receptions a season ago for St. Francis, dominating with a rare blend of speed (both in his feet and hands) and savviness. He can sense soft spots in coverage and beat defenders in 1-on-1 situations all the same.
Sarratt’s skills are translatable no matter the competition, and as it stands right now, his floor in our Sun Belt WR rankings is right here at No. 9.
11) Jacari Carter, Georgia State
Arguably one of the biggest sleepers at the position, Jacari Carter was every bit a star during his time at Merrimack. Transferring to Georgia State with 1,227 career receiving yards, Carter adds a valuable leader in the WR room for the Panthers after being named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award back in 2021.
Carter is as quick as a hiccup and found ways to defeat defenses with both his after-the-catch ability and his mind. He’ll navigate to open holes over the middle of the field and plays backyard football as good as anyone. With Darren Grainger’s ability to perform at a high-level off-platform, this duo may be one of the better ones in the conference.
12) Beau Corrales, Texas State
Quietly a big pick up for the Bobcats, Beau Corrales brings vast experience and a massive catch radius to San Marcos. At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, Corrales’ size only pales in comparison to his experience. After five seasons with North Carolina, Corrales spent last season with SMU but only appeared in three games.
Back in his breakout season of 2019, he flashed the ability to high-point the football and bring down a bevy of contested catches. On the field, Corrales’ talent is no question. Here’s to hoping he returns to top form for Texas State.
13) Jabre Barber, Troy
One of the picks for breakout receiver in the Sun Belt this fall, Jabre Barber is poised to take his receiving prowess to new heights after an injury-shortened 2022 campaign.
Despite playing in just six games a season ago, Barber hauled in more receiving yards than his previous season high and was on the precipice of stardom. Barber averaged 14 yards per catch and did so against decent competition.
Barber is at his best when he gets to the open field, flashing highlight-reel ability with his elusiveness and game-breaking speed. If he stays healthy in 2023, Barber absolutely climbs in these Sun Belt WR rankings.
14) Derwin Burgess Jr., Georgia Southern
As the available targets went up in 2022 for Georgia Southern, so did Derwin Burgess Jr.’s production. Winning with quickness, had it not been for missing a few games, Burgess might’ve eclipsed 1,000 yards and broken out even more last year.
Burgess wins off the line of scrimmage with ease and has a bevy of strong attributes to his game. Most notably, his body control is among the best in the Sun Belt, and that will be counted on in 2023 as they break in Davis Brin at quarterback.
15) Jeff Foreman, Arkansas State
At this stage of Jeff Foreman’s career, we know what we’re getting from him. Foreman has three consecutive seasons with at least 400 yards and multiple touchdowns, averaging 20.1 yards per catch in his career.
He wins with speed but has plenty of ability at the catch point. Foreman is a former track athlete with speed to burn and plus-return skills (if they so choose to have him return kicks again) to boot.
16) Peter LeBlanc, Louisiana
After leading the team in receptions back in 2021, Peter LeBlanc (like the rest of the Ragin’ Cajuns) struggled to come to grips with the team’s new identity in 2022. A year later and further invested in head coach Michael Desormeaux’s system, LeBlanc should return to his strong ways in 2023.
At his best, LeBlanc was a great short-area receiver with plus skills after the catch. He’s bigger than most receivers who win closer to the line of scrimmage, and he’s at his best when using that size advantage against smaller DBs or slower LBs.
17) Phoenix Sproles, JMU
One of the most experienced receivers in the Sun Belt, Phoenix Sproles transfers in after five seasons at North Dakota State. The former Bison drew 29 career starts and 50 career games played, proving to be a big-time threat with the ball in his hands.
Sproles totaled 61 receptions for 888 yards and five receiving scores during his time with NDSU, rushing the ball seven times for 125 yards and another two touchdowns. The ability Sproles possesses to turn on the jets may be unmatched if his speed correlates against Sun Belt defenders. The ceiling is high for Sproles, who joins the Dukes in a big-time position of need.
18) Devin Voisin, South Alabama
What a unique journey it’s been for Devin Voisin during his time in Mobile. After hauling in just two catches in his freshman season, Voisin attempted his hand on the defensive side of the ball during the 2020-21 seasons.
However, he more than found his home as a terrific option back at receiver in 2022. Voisin caught 66 passes for 877 yards and five touchdowns, averaging a healthy 13.6 yards per catch. He forms quite the trio with the aforementioned Jaguars on the list here.
19) Deshon Stoudemire, Troy
A decorated JUCO transfer at one point, Deshon Stoudemire has steadily increased his production at Troy over the past two seasons. That led to a 507-yard, two-touchdown performance in 2022 and potentially even bigger numbers in 2023.
Stoudemire plays at a high level and much bigger than his smaller frame would indicate. He’s strong at the catch point and has reliable hands. Improving his consistency over the course of a full season will be key to a potential breakout year this season.
20) Julian Ortega-Jones, Texas State
Finally finding his footing back in the state of Texas, Julian Ortega-Jones started to look more and more like the player that put flashed high-level ability in the MAC a few seasons ago. After transferring to Texas State in 2021, Ortega-Jones has had to learn a completely new playbook and play style, and it appeared to all start to come together in 2022.
With just nine games played, Ortega-Jones showed that his kick inside may pay dividends if he can stay on the field and the Bobcats can sustain drives. He’s a big man for an inside receiver, and if they can manufacture targets, Ortega-Jones has plenty of skill after the catch to make special things happen.
21) Talik Keaton, Marshall
It’s been a long journey for Talik Keaton at Marshall. The fifth-year receiver is fresh off a disappointing 2022 campaign, looking to rebound and parlay his skill set into a more fruitful 2023.
With strong hands and a full route tree, Keaton is in line for an uptick in both targets and production, as he was on pace to see in 2022 had it not ended prematurely. If all goes to plan, Keaton could leave an even larger legacy in Huntington than he already has.
- Shadeed Ahmed, Texas State
- Reggie Brown, JMU
- Jakarius Caston, Southern Miss
- Dashaun Davis, App State
- Javon Harvey, ODU
- Christian Horn, App State
- Courtney Jackson, Arkansas State
- Robert Lewis, Georgia State
- Tiaquelin Mims, Southern Miss
- Mason Pierce, Marshall
- Sean Shaw Jr., Texas State
- Dalton Stroman, App State