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The most important position for winning a championship? Wide Receiver.

By Christian Goeckel
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What is the most important position in football?

Ask ten different people, and eight will tell you “quarterback”. One will tell you how important a great defensive line is, and the final, a purist, will tell you that the offensive line is where your success will live or die.

I’m probably the one that believes a defensive line is the most crucial piece. Watching 2018 Clemson, 2021 Georgia, and all of the amazing Alabama lineman from the past decade-plus collapse pockets and eviscerate running backs probably has a lot to do with that.

The answer is quarterback. It’s not just the most important position to the success of its team in football, but all of sports. No other singular position has a bigger impact.

With that said, one position has made a push for that claim over the last fifteen years: wide receiver.

I’ve tried to come up with a title for their undeniable impact on recent college football history. The best I’ve come up with is “separator”.

I feel like it’s an apt name for a position that requires you to create separation to succeed.

Obviously having a dominant quarterback is great, and having five motor graders playing on the line for you makes life easy, but what happens when the other team has that, too? 

What is the separator when all things are even in a game? Most tier-1 college football teams (Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, etc) can win 95% of their schedule based on talent alone, but what happens when you're not more talented than the team on the other side of the field?

The team with the better wide receivers wins.

Last year, Georgia had the best defense the country had seen in decades. We’ve all seen how many of those guys were drafted. That defense, which hadn’t given up more than 17 points entering the SEC Championship, looked lost in space against Alabama’s John Metchie and Jameson Williams. Bama hung 41 one the Dawgs, and John Metchie and Jameson Williams combined for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Bama also lost John Metchie to an ACL tear in that game. When the teams played again in the CFP National Championship, Jameson Williams had 65 yards in just over a quarter, but tore his ACL on a 40-yard reception early in the second quarter. Alabama’s offense, led by Heisman Trophy-winner Bryce Young, only managed 18 points in the loss. A 23-point decline from their total in the SEC Championship. Alabama’s young receivers weren’t ready to step up, and Georgia’s freshman receiver Adonai Mitchell made the biggest catch in the school’s history.

2018 Clemson was led by an unbelievable collection of defensive line talent, but it was a freshman wide receiver that pushed them past the previously undefeated Crimson Tide. On a field with: Jerry Juedy, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Tee Higgins, and Hunter Renfrow, Justyn Ross stood above everyone. Flying through the air, making catches that would make Odell Beckham Jr. raise an eyebrow, Ross broke Alabama’s spirit. He finished the championship matchup with 6 receptions for 153 yards and a score.

Of course, sometimes your wide receiver room can be so dominant that there isn’t a team even with you. 2019 LSU and 2020 Alabama proved that.

The only team that could beat a Tua-led Bama in 2019 was that Joe Burrow team that featured JaMarr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall Jr. Once that team won their championship and moved on to the next level, there was nothing standing in the way of Alabama, with the eventual Heisman-winner DeVonta Smith and his counterparts Jaylen Waddle, and John Metchie.

Sadly, the days of the flexbone in football are done. Even I-formation stalwarts Wisconsin and Georgia have moved on to the spread. With this move, the bell cow running back has also become a thing of the past. Now, in this new age of attacking all parts of the field, the biggest factor will continue to move towards the game-breaking wideout.

Alabama’s offense has looked clunky without Williams and Metchie. Georgia lost Adonai Mitchell to an ankle injury, and promptly played its two worst games of the season against Kent State and Missouri. Ohio State looks like the surest bet in the country. Why? It has the best receiving room, by a long shot, with Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr, and Julian Fleming.

Georgia and Alabama may still have the best defenses out of the top ranked teams in the country, but ask them if they want any part of Ohio State. Hint: they don’t. There’s nothing more devastating to a great defense’s psyche than doing everything right: controlling the edge, getting a pass rush, locking down their men in coverage, only to be beaten by a wide receiver that’s just better than everyone else. It’s debilitating, and it’s what’s starting to separate the elite teams from the rest of the would-be contenders.

Christian Goeckel - Christian is the Content Director for