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Washington State’s Max Borghi is nation’s only RB named to Biletnikoff watch list

Washington State running back Max Borghi (21) runs with the ball as Arizona State linebacker Khaylan Kearse-Thomas (20) closes in for a tackle during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz.   (Associated Press)

If you visit the official website, the Biletnikoff Award makes its criteria inherently clear. The award given to college football’s top receiver isn’t limited to the wide receiver position itself, but anybody on the field who thrives in a pass-catching position.

Even then, the trophy is almost exclusively given to wide receivers, and they make up all but five of the places on the 55-person 2020 Biletnikoff Award watch list.

Four of the five who aren’t wide receivers are tight ends. What about the other one?

Coming off a season that saw him lead the country in running back receptions, Washington State junior back Max Borghi found his name on the Biletnikoff Award’s initial watch list Thursday morning.

It comes 24 hours after Borghi was named to the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which recognizes the country’s best running back.

Borghi became the country’s most productive multipurpose running back under Mike Leach in the Air Raid offense and led all Cougars in receptions last season with 86. With Easop Winston Jr., Dezmon Patmon and Brandon Arconado all having graduated, Borghi also leads all returning WSU players in receiving yards (597) and is second in returning touchdown catches (five).

The 86 catches Borghi had were far and away the most by any FBS running back last season and the most by any player who wasn’t a wide receiver. Demetric Felton of UCLA was second in running back receptions with 55.

In two seasons with the Cougars, Borghi has caught 139 passes for 971 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 5.3 receptions per game. That’s supplemented by 199 carries, 1,183 rushing yards and 19 more touchdowns on the ground.

The Cougars have placed a handful of players on the Biletnikoff Award’s watch list over the years. Arconado, Winston Jr. and Patmon were all named to the list at different points last year, and it’s possible WSU will have a few more inclusions to the current list by the time the potential fall season is over.

Despite losing three of the Pac-12’s most productive players, WSU returns three wide receivers who finished with more than 500 yards last season: seniors Tay Martin (564) and Renard Bell (579) and junior Travell Harris (536).

Other Pac-12 players named to the 2020 Biletnikoff watch list include Arizona State’s Frank Darby, Oregon’s Johnny Johnson III, USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyloer Vaughns and Stanford’s Michael Wilson.