Over the course of each college football season we have seen quarterback, and wide receiver duos take over. Some of those duos include Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross, Derek Carr and Davante Adams, and Kyler Murray with Marquise Brown. There are 10 duos that could have that same impact in the 2022 college football season.
C.J. Stroud & Jaxon Smith-Njigba- Ohio State
Throughout the 2021 season, Jaxon Smith-Njigba was third on the depth chart behind Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. While those two departed for the NFL, Smith-Njigba took over as the top receiver during the Rose Bowl. He and Stroud were almost unstoppable as Smith-Njigba finished the game with 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. If that was any indication as to what the 2022 season is going to look like for these two, it should be expected they lead the nation in multiple categories. For Stroud as well he is now entering his second season as the starter where he will have a better understanding of the offense and be able to allow the playbook to be fully open. This on top of their experience together already makes them the top duo heading into the season.
Caleb Williams & Mario Williams- USC
Same duo, same head coach, just a different team. Mario Williams will once again have Caleb Williams throwing to him under Lincoln Riley’s offense but instead of Oklahoma, they are now at USC. Both Mario Williams and Caleb Williams were freshmen last season and now will have a year of experience with each other to work off of. Mario Williams caught 15 receptions over six games with Caleb Williams as a starter throwing to him for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Now the Williams duo will be able to build on their connection that started last year that proved to be the start of one that could be hard to slow down in 2022.
Bryce Young & Tyler Harrell- Alabama
When Jameson Williams transferred to Alabama, he and Bryce Young instantly connected. Alabama was able to use his speed and route running to open up the offense early on in the season. Williams finished the year with 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. With Williams heading to the NFL, the Crimson Tide need another speedster to have the same impact. That player will be Tyler Harrell who transferred to Alabama from Louisville. While Harrell wasn’t the main target for the Cardinals in 2021, he still showcased his speed when he caught the ball 18 times and accumulated 523 yards and six touchdowns. Now with Alabama, the coaching staff should be able to maximize Harrell’s strengths to be Young’s go-to vertical threat.
Quinn Ewers & Xavier Worthy- Texas
What Xavier Worthy did as a freshman receiver in 2021 with putting up 981 yards and 12 touchdowns over 62 receptions all while having rotating quarterbacks with Casey Thompson and Hudson Card was phenomenal. Worthy proved himself as the top receiver for the Texas Longhorns with his speed, crisp route running, and body control to make big plays out of negative situations. That should now continue as highly touted quarterback recruit Quinn Ewers is now expected to be the new quarterback for the Longhorns. Coming out of high school, Ewers was the top quarterback in the 2021 class as he can improvise on plays, remain accurate on the move, and throw the ball very smoothly to all levels of the field. With the talented player Ewers is, and now pairing him with an elite young receiver like Worthy is just the perfect pair for a top quarterback and wide receiver duo.
Devin Leary & Thayer Thomas- N.C. State
The duo of Devin Leary and Thayer Thomas may be an underrated duo but one that will be more prominently known by the end of 2022. Leary is entering his fourth year with N.C. State and will be building off of a great 2021 season where he showed massive improvements with reading defenses and his accuracy. Leary showed progress towards being an NFL-ready quarterback and it was helped by his playmaker in Thayer Thomas. It was Emeka Emezie who led the Wolfpack receivers in yards and receptions but he left for the NFL. The second top receiver was Thomas who had 51 receptions for 596 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. Thomas will be returning for his fifth year and should show his “do it all” skills once again with his quarterback one more time.
Hendon Hooker & Cedric Tillman- Tennessee
Cedric Tillman was a big help for Tennessee’s offense in 2021 as he had his first year as a starter after being with the team since 2018. His yards after catch ability and shifty route running ability were on full display as he put up 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns with an average of 16.9 yards per catch. Tillman was the main target and he will now have another season to build off of that with Hendon Hooker. Hooker had his best season in 2021 with a 68.2% completion percentage for 2,945 yards, 31 touchdowns, and three interceptions. Now with Hooker and Tillman heading into another year with each other, they can build on their successful 2021 season.
KJ Jefferson & Jadon Haselwood- Arkansas
This will be a new duo to watch in 2022. KJ Jefferson remained with Arkansas, while Jadon Haselwood transferred there from Oklahoma. Jefferson in his first year as a starter showed how accurate he could be, completing 67% of his passes for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns. He can make big plays both within and outside the pocket and will have another season to grow. He is losing his top playmaker, Treylon Burks to the NFL but is getting another one in Jadon Haselwood. On an Oklahoma Sooners offense that also featured Marvin Mims, Michael Woods II, and Mario Williams it was difficult for Haselwood to see a large volume of production. Haselwood would finish the 2021 season with 39 receptions for 399 yards and two touchdowns. He has the frame to be a physical receiver that wins in jump ball situations. With his quickness off the line and knack to get open, he should become the top target for Jefferson.
Dillon Gabriel & Marvin Mims- Oklahoma
Wide receiver Marvin Mims is coming off his second consistent year with the Oklahoma Sooners where he had 32 receptions for 705 yards and five touchdowns. Mims did this despite having to get used to the playstyle of Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams as Oklahoma switched to Williams after Rattler struggled early in the season. Mims is a quarterback’s receiver as he does a good job of adjusting to off-target throws and making the catches look easy. Having Mims at wide receiver will make life easier for transfer quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Coming from UCF, Gabriel is a very confident passer who in three seasons on the team has thrown 70 touchdowns. He is coming off a season where he only played three games due to suffering a broken collarbone. In Oklahoma’s offense with Mims, it would not be surprising to see these two rise to the top of their positions based on a good season together.
Phil Jurkovec & Zay Flowers- Boston College
In 2020 the duo of Phil Jurkovec and Zay Flowers was a dynamic force leading the ACC. That 2020 season Jurkovec threw for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns with 205 completions while Flowers had 56 receptions for 892 yards and nine of those touchdowns. The hope was for this to continue in 2021, but Jurkovec’s injury hindered that from happening. When Jurkovec announced he was returning for the 2022 season, Flowers soon announced after that he would be coming back as well. Jurkovec does a good job with putting the ball in the spot it needs to be for the receiver to make a play. Flowers with his savvy route-running follows it up by gaining yards after the catch. Another year together means they have another chance to prove just how great they work together.
Jake Haener & Jalen Cropper- Fresno State
Both Jake Haener and Jalen Cropper could’ve entered the 2022 NFL Draft, but instead decided to return to Fresno State. Haener has continued to improve each season and in 2021 threw for 4,096 yards and 33 touchdowns while having a 67.1% completion percentage. He has a strong arm and the ability to throw off-platform. Of those 4,096 yards, 899 of them were to Jalen Cropper. In addition, Cropper also had 85 receptions and 11 touchdowns which were all career highs for him. This is a duo that may fly under the radar compared to the others on the grand scale of things to begin with, but could become must-watch as the season goes on.
As the 2022 season progresses there could be other duos that emerge and become the ones to watch. As it stands heading into the season these are the top ones to watch.