The award given annually to the nation’s top collegiate receiver is narrowed down to three finalists.
Apparently, none of the voters asked for Trey Wilson’s input.
The Vanderbilt cornerback might be a little biased but he would have split his vote between teammates Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Instead, on Monday the 190 members of the national search committee for the Biletnikoff Award pinned West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey, USC’s Marqise Lee and Baylor’s Terrance Williams as their top three choices.
It’s a shame because Wilson had a pretty catchy nickname for the Southeastern Conference’s most productive receiving duo — “The Biletnikoff Twins.”
“I think both of them deserve it,” Wilson said. “People wanted to make a big deal about us going against Tennessee’s receivers [last] week, talking about how talented they were. But I said it a while back — I don’t think we play against any receivers that are more talented than what we practice against every day. Those guys do a great job of pushing us and maxing our potential each and every practice.”
Matthews and Boyd have proven two dynamic receivers are just as good, if not better, than a single playmaker.
Entering Saturday’s regular-season finale at Wake Forest, the duo has combined for 120 catches, 1,839 yards and 10 touchdowns — better than any wide receiver tandem in the SEC. They’re also challenging some Vanderbilt history.
Only Keith Edwards and Chuck Scott have combined for more receiving yards. That pair rolled up 1,880 yards on 167 catches in 1983. Other top tandems include Dan Stricker and M.J. Garrett (1,534 in 2001), Boo Mitchell and Steve Kosanvich (1,509 in 1988) and Earl Bennett and Erik Davis (1,495 in 2005).
“It is one thing when you have one wide receiver and they can roll coverage to and double cover him,” coach James Franklin said. “But [it is hard to stop] when you got one guy on either side.”
And they're similar-sized targets.
Both Mattews and Boyd look nearly identical in stature. Both weigh in at 205 pounds but Boyd is an inch taller at 6-foot-4.
“To have two guys like that you know if I miss a ball a couple feet this way or that way that I didn’t want it that they’re still going to be able to make a play,” quarterback Jordan Rodgers said. “It is a good feeling as a quarterback to have two guys like that who can make plays on the outside for you.”
They’ve used that height to their advantage. On Saturday, against Tennessee, Boyd extended his long arms to corral a deflected pass and then get two feet down in the back of the end zone for a remarkable go-ahead touchdown late in the first half.
It was his fourth touchdown of the season — all in the last four games. The late scoring surge differs mightily from last year’s frantic start. In his first two college games, he caught four passes — three for touchdowns. He finished the year with eight — the most of any SEC returning receiver.
But his coaches asked him to be mentally tougher after he showed his youth at times — including just one catch in a three-game span against South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia last year.
The redshirt-sophomore from Roswell, Ga., has shown more consistency this fall with 43 receptions for 721 yards. Plus, he hasn’t lacked clutch moments. Whether it was against Tennessee or two weeks ago when he caught a 26-yard game-winning touchdown against Ole Miss with 52 seconds left.
“He is tops in the SEC as far as the wide receiver position with the amount of success he’s had in a short period of time,” Matthews said. “You’re talking about 24 career games played. He’s got 12 career touchdowns. That’s a touchdown every other game. You can’t beat that.”
While Boyd continues to grow, Matthews has reached star status.
The junior from Madison, Ala., ranks second in the SEC with 77 catches for 1,118 receiving yards. At Vanderbilt, he trails only Bennett (1,146 in 2006) and Mitchell (1,213 in 1988) for most receiving yards in a season.
He picked up his sixth receiving touchdown of the season — and 15th of his career — on Saturday when he caught a short pass from Rodgers and galloped 71 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter. It was his second touchdown of the game. He scored his first career rushing touchdown when he raced around the right corner on an end-around and swallowed up 47 yards with his long legs.
A budding star since he ended his freshman campaign with four touchdowns in four games, Matthews has tied Mitchell’s single-season school record with six 100-yard receiving performances. For his career, Matthews has surpassed 100 yards nine times — just two behind Stricker’s record of 11.
“I said it before the season — and I would hope any quarterback would say it — I think I have the best receivers in the SEC,” Rodgers said. “They make plays for me every week. I’m not going to back down from that. I think they are two guys that possess not only the stature with their height, the ball skills and athletic ability but they’re both really smart. And they’re getting better and better with the experience they have.”