Who’s The Real “Wide Receiver U” in the ACC: Georgia Tech or Clemson?

Yellow Jackets Have Best NFL Duo, But Tigers Post Monster Stats In College

As another edition of the Georgia Tech-Clemson rivalry nears, let’s take an in-depth look at some of the best receivers to play in the series during recent seasons.

Both the Yellow Jackets and Tigers have legitimate claims to the title of “Wide Receiver U” in the ACC, but which side has the edge?  Georgia Tech’s receivers are more accomplished at the professional level, but Clemson’s wideouts have had a couple of the most prolific ACC seasons in recent memory.

Here are the facts:

@gdheffley takes the Georgia Tech side of the argument, asserting that two of the top NFL receivers are former Yellow Jackets.  When looking at the next-level production of GT receivers, it’s difficult to choose any school’s receivers, regardless of conference, over the Jackets’ talented group.

There is no question which former ACC receiver is the best pro.  Calvin Johnson’s list of NFL accomplishments has him mentioned in the “greatest of all time” discussions, and while he’s slowed down some,  Megatron will continue to break records for the duration of his career.

Johnson’s 1,964 receiving yards in 2012 broke Jerry Rice’s single-season yardage record, a mark that is undoubtedly the most impressive ever achieved by a former ACC receiver.  Megatron is the fastest receiver to eclipse 10,000 yards, he’s a five-time Pro Bowler, and he holds NFL records for consecutive 10+ reception games and consecutive 100-yard receiving games.

At Georgia Tech, Johnson was a Freshman All-American in 2004 and the ACC Player of the Year in 2006.  He also won the Biletnikoff Award and the Paul Warfield Trophy in 2006.

Demaryius Thomas is the second part of the Jackets’ formidable one-two punch, as Peyton Manning’s favorite Denver wideout has established himself as another one of the top players in the league.  Thomas turned in three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2012-2014, and he set the Broncos’ single-season receiving yards record in 2014 (1,619).  The three-time Pro Bowl receiver also holds Denver records for most consecutive 100-yard games and single-season 100-yard games.

On The Flats in Atlanta, Thomas was named First Team All-ACC in 2009.  He finished fourth in school history in receiving yards (2,339) and fifth in ACC history in yards per catch average in a career (19.5).

The Yellow Jackets also have former players Stephen Hill, Darren Waller and DeAndre Smelter playing for the Panthers, Ravens and 49ers, respectively.

@brianclemsonfan takes the flip side of the discussion, siding with the Tigers. 

While it certainly isn’t fair to solely compare college receiving stats due to the fact that Georgia Tech runs the spread option, it’s hard to side against what Clemson receivers have done in Death Valley during the past several seasons.

DeAndre Hopkins had one of the best seasons in ACC history in 2012, when he caught 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns.  Despite skipping out on his senior season, Hopkins left Clemson as the school’s career receiving yardage and career touchdown receptions record holder.

The former Clemson star has continued his outstanding career so far in the NFL, posting 802 yards in his rookie campaign before exploding for 1,210 yards a season ago.  Despite the Houston Texans revolving door at quarterback, Hopkins has already recorded two 100-yard games in 2015.  He’s on pace for a whopping 244 targets, which would break the NFL all-time record.

Sammy Watkins also had an outstanding college career and he, like Hopkins, also posted one of the best seasons in ACC history during his junior year.  Watkins caught a ridiculous 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 scores during that season.  He was named the ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year (2011), First Team All-ACC twice (2011, 2013) and First Team All-American twice (2011, 2013).

During his rookie season with the Bills, Watkins had 982 receiving yards and six touchdowns.

The Tigers also have Martavis Bryant and Jaron Brown playing for the Steelers and Cardinals, respectively.

Not every fan is buying that Georgia Tech or Clemson is the “Wide Receiver U” of the ACC, however.  As @Suzanne1105 points out, Miami doesn’t have a bad group of pro wideouts, either.

The U currently has six receivers in the league, including Andre Johnson and Devin Hester.  Not too bad, Hurricanes.

The facts are undeniable.  Georgia Tech’s physically imposing, veteran duo of Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas is arguably the best one-two combination in the NFL.  But Clemson has a talented duo in its own right, and while Hopkins and Watkins might not post the NFL stats of Johnson and Thomas, the two Tigers torched the ACC to the tune of two of the best seasons in conference history.

The case has been presented, and your answer to the question most likely hinges on which statistics you put the most stock in.  But no matter which side you’re choosing, the Jackets and Tigers simply have a knack for producing outstanding wide receivers.