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Top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history: No. 38 Juron Criner

Juron Criner

Juron Criner made a habit of tough catches, like this TD reception in 2011. Photo by Chris Morrison-USA Today Sports

Position, years at Arizona: Wide receiver, 2008-2011

Honors, accomplishments at UA: School-record holder with 32 career receiving touchdowns. … Shares school season record with 11 receiving touchdowns, accomplished in 2010 and 2011. … Earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors as a junior. … Was a second-team All-American in 2010, as selected by CBSSports.com and Sports Illustrated.

Why he made our list: Criner had a rare combination of size, skill, production and highlight-making catches. His best trait probably was his ability to go up and get a deep pass, positioning his 6-foot-3 frame to shield defenders and using his outstanding hands to clutch even poorly thrown balls. His height and body control were why he was such a touchdown target for quarterback Nick Foles, as those two formed one of the top pass-catch combos in school history.

Criner’s best season came as an junior, when he caught 82 passes for 1,233 yards, even while playing through an assortment of injuries.

“Juron’s greatest attribute is he’s a very complete player,” then-coach Mike Stoops said before Criner’s senior season. “He has the ability to break short throws into big plays, to break tackles. He has great strength. He has separation speed. He has great timing, so he can up after jump balls.”

Criner, who missed summer workouts in advance of his senior season because of undisclosed medical and personal issues, had 75 catches for 956 yards in 2011, missing some time because of an appendectomy early in the season and a nagging knee injury later.

He ranks fourth at UA in career receptions (209) and receiving yards (2,859).

Life after college: Criner posted a slow time of 4.68 seconds for 40 yards in advance of the 2012 NFL draft, and he slid to the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round, at least a couple of rounds below expectations. He then was the last player from the third day of the draft (rounds three through seven) to sign a contract, getting a deal done in late July.

Criner caught 16 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, with all but two catches coming in a five-game burst in the second half of the season. A hip injury cut short his late-season momentum, but he’s back to work with new Oakland quarterback Matt Flynn as he tries to become a more-regular member of the receiving rotation.

In partnership with the Arizona Republic, we are counting down the top 50 football players in Arizona Wildcats history. Leave your top 10 at AG’s Wildcat Report on Facebook, and check out azcentral.com for the countdown of ASU’s Top 50 football players.

No. 50 — LaMonte Hunley

No. 49 — Hubie Oliver

No. 48 — Rob Gronkowski

No. 47 — Jim Donarski

No. 46 — Ontiwaun Carter

No. 45 — Steve McLaughlin

No. 44 — John Fina

No. 43 — Glenn Parker

No. 42 — Bobby Lee Thompson

No. 41 — Marcus Bell

No. 40 — Fred W. Enke

No. 39 — Ka’Deem Carey

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