It’s been 18 years since a small-conference school had a Biletnikoff Award winner.
The award given to the nation’s best wide receiver is usually reserved for those inside the power conferences, and no amount of realignment over the years has done anything to change that. However, in 1998, Louisiana Tech’s Troy Murphy completed an unprecedented three year run, where receivers from three small schools took home the nation’s greatest honor for a wide receiver. Before him, it was Marshall’s Randy Moss, and before Moss, it was Marcus Harris from the University of Wyoming.
The next man to secure this award from a small conference will be SMU’s Courtland Sutton.
It may seem weird for an award winner to come from a team that hasn’t produced a winning season since 2012 and hasn’t won a conference championship since 1984, but Sutton is the real deal. The converted defensive back has made immediate waves since arriving at SMU, earning the number one receiver spot almost immediately, and taking the American Athletic Conference by storm.
Last season with the Mustangs, Sutton caught 49 passes for 862 yards including nine touchdowns. That set an SMU record for receiving yards by a freshman, and tied Denver Broncos’ wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for most touchdowns by a freshman player. Needless to say, his freshman accolades stack up pretty well with some of the best receivers in Mustang history.
While many people considered Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley the two best receivers in college football last season, neither man could match Sutton’s per catch numbers. Ridley was the better of the two SEC wideouts, catching 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. However, Kirk was not far behind with 80 catches for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns.
However, when you look at it from a per catch basis, Sutton was undoubtedly the better receiver. Both Kirk and Ridley caught nearly double the amount of balls that Courtland did over the course of the season. If Sutton caught as many balls as Ridley did at his 2015 per-catch average, he would have ended up with 1,566 receiving yards and probably a lot more touchdowns. If he matched Kirk’s catch total, he would have amassed 1,408 receiving yards.
Considering the massive amount of hype that both SEC freshman had coming into this season compared to Sutton, it’s no surprise that they were the ones who ended up on the Freshman All-American First Team. However, when you consider the drastically reduced number of targets Courtland received, it’s pretty obvious who the better receiver was in 2015.
Additionally, Sutton’s 2016 season is already off to a bang with an absolutely dominant performance against North Texas. While Sutton caught only four balls on Saturday, he amassed 162 yards receiving, including four touchdowns. Basically, if Courtland caught the ball against UNT, there’s a 75-percent chance he was headed to the end zone. Currently, Sutton ranks ninth in the entire NCAA in receiving yards, and is tied for first in receiving TDs. He will try to continue that trend against Baylor this weekend.
As if all the statistics and accolades weren’t enough, Sutton even stepped in for a shorthanded SMU basketball team in the latter half of last season, even draining a three pointer in the dying embers of a USF blowout in February. Simply put, is there anything this man can’t do?
Even though it’s been a while since SMU had a winner on campus or the small conferences had a Biletnikoff Award winner, Courtland Sutton is here to change all of that. He has every credential in the world to be considered one of the premier receivers in this country, and should be evaluated accordingly.