By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
There are many talented receivers and tight ends across our coverage area that features more than 60 teams. Below are some of the top receivers and tight ends to watch this season
NOTE: Some worthy players may appear on one of our other four football watch lists. A player can only appear on one list.
This watchlist can be found in print in the Fall O-Zone Preview Magazine available this week at all southwest Missouri Casey’s General Stores.
Eli Aye, Willard
Aye is the perfect receiver for Willard’s offense. His speed forces safeties to stay out of the box because he’ll be impossible to defend on an island. As a junior, he posted 667 yards and six touchdowns on 28 receptions. His 24 yards per catch is the highest among returning players in the Ozarks.
Brady Blackwell, Branson
At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Blackwell is one of the most physically imposing receivers in the Ozarks. He’s impossible to jam at the line of scrimmage and wins most 1-on-1 jump balls. His 47 receptions for 502 yards and four touchdowns is solid, but Blackwell is an incredible talent and in an offense that is more capable of getting him touches. He’s on deck for a monster senior year.
Jack Clinkenbeard, Glendale
Yes, Glendale plays in a pass-happy offense and yes, each year SOMEONE puts up crazy numbers. But, this senior is legitimately a stud. Clinkenbeard’s 97 receptions for 1,439 yards and 12 touchdowns is impressive, but not quite as impressive as how he got them. He can beat you deep, he’s great in the screen game and dynamic after the catch.
Gary Clinton, Webb City
He doesn’t have staggering numbers, but Clinton is the most talented player on this list. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he’s a big target. But, Clinton also is a high-level blocker and runs a 4.6, 40. Mizzou, Kansas State and Colorado were among the many program recruiting him before his July commitment to Arkansas State.
Rafe Darter, Mount Vernon
Darter is one of the area’s top deep threats because of his blend of size and speed. As a junior, he led Mount Vernon with 57 receptions for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t even need a route, just throw the ball up and he’s going to go get it. With classmate Mason Ballay sliding over to QB, expect the numbers to again be big.
Cooper Ezard, Camdenton
Few players have enjoyed Camdenton’s offensive transition more than Ezard. As a sophomore, he was solid; as a junior, he was sensational, exploding for 80 catches, 1,031 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s a big-bodied, 6-foot-2 target and turns into a running back after the reception. Camdenton will welcome a new quarterback, but Ezard will remain a go-to option.
Chris Floyd Jr., Glendale
Again, I know it’s Glendale, but Floyd Jr. went crazy as a sophomore with 1,055 yards and 11 touchdowns on 90 receptions. He runs smooth routes and can get you long or deep; he’s also dynamic in the return game. CFJ will have a chance to make a run at several records over the next two years.
Cole Stewart, Carl Junction
He’s a Danny Amendola clone. At 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Stewart makes plays well beyond what his frame suggests. He put up 648 yards on 35 receptions as a junior, with six receiving touchdowns and a pair of rushing touchdowns. He averaged 80 receiving yards per game over his last eight games. Regardless of who is playing QB, Stewart will see a major increase in numbers.
Others to Watch
Chandler Taylor, Kickapoo
Jaytin DeFreece, Skyline
Mason Denning, Strafford
Parker Erickson, Bolivar
Konner Hatfield, Hollister
Kessler Heiney, MV-BT Liberty
Connor Lair, West Plains
Gaven Morgan, El Dorado Springs
Cameron Portis, Buffalo
Kyle Wood, Willow Springs