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Depth, Balance Make OSU Receivers A Nightmare For Defenses

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

There might not be a Dez Bryant or Justin Blackmon lining up this season for the Cowboys but those two can be thanked in part for OSU's current set up at wide receiver.

The Pokes might not have that clear-cut No. 1 option of years past but, as far as quarterback J.W. Walsh is concerned, they don't need one.

Sure, Oklahoma State proved it had a star in the making last season with Josh Stewart, but for the first time in the Gundy era, this team has an embarrassment of riches at the position.

It was already lauded as one of the country's top receiving units entering the season, but it has proven to be even deeper than expected.

"I don't think people really understand it yet," Walsh said. "We have weapons everywhere. This is a special group and it's only going to get better."

While Bryant and Blackmon helped make OSU's offense explosive by being bears to cover individually, this current crop of Cowboy wide outs cause a different type of headache for defenses because of their interchangeability.

Any one of these Cowboy receivers is capable of a break out game at any time, and there are a lot of players to choose from.

In each of the Cowboys' past two victories, 13 different receivers have recorded a catch and seven players have already snagged a touchdown grab through three games.

Naturally, the rotation is sure to shrink as the competition stiffens, but this receiving corp's strength is built in its depth and its balance. The Pokes could theoretically go 10-deep and perhaps even 11 once C.J. Curry is back to 100 percent. Perhaps even more impressive is the Cowboys' depth at each of the four receiver spots, where they go at least two-deep with valuable contributors at each.

"If people don't understand how special they are as a unit, they should," safety Zack Craig said. "All of those guys are capable of starting, I really believe that. They're all really talented and they're young; I think only three are going to leave after this year. We have a superb receiving corps that's young and talented and they're going to be good for a long time."

Charlie Moore, Tracy Moore and Blake Jackson are the only seniors in the current rotation. Charlie is tied for second on the team with 11 receptions and Jackson leads the Pokes with two touchdown grabs. Tracy is still finding his groove with seven catches for 77 yards after returning from a season-ending injury, but he has proven himself capable of dominant performances in the past. Walsh said those three are mostly to thank for the current reliability of the receiving corps.

"The young guys have had success in the past few games but those older guys have a lot to do with that," Walsh said. "They've shown great leadership and they've set the standard high. Those young guys are certainly talented but they see where the bar is set and they're having to reach for it to get on the field with so many talented guys. The seniors have set a great example on what it takes to make it happen and the work ethic needed."

And that work ethic set by the seniors and Stewart, who is a junior, has spread throughout a youth-heavy rotation that features four sophomores (Brandon Sheperd, Blake Webb, David Glidden and Austin Hays), a redshirt freshman (Jhajuan Seales) and a true freshman in Marcell Ateman.

And the influx of capable depth has led to a decline in individual statistics but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

For example, Stewart leads the team with 12 receptions on the season. He had three games with at least 12 games last year.

Charlie Moore and Seales each have 11 catches. Nobody else has more than eight grabs but there seems to be an understanding throughout the receiving corps that spreading the wealth is in the best interest of the team's longterm success.

"It's awesome. We're all pushing each other. The older guys are obviously pushing the younger guys but the younger guys are gunning for those starting spots so that keeps us alert," Charlie Moore said. "It's so fun to have this level of competition because it makes us all better and forces us to excel. And there isn't selfishness. We're all happy to see one of our guys get a chance because we know how hard you have to work to get out there. It's a close group."

First-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich further stressed the importance of a sharing mentality and having to balance playing time among so many players.

"It's a nice problem to have," Yurcich said. "We've got several weapons and we need to continue to build, continue to get reps and continue to be unselfish at those positions. Those are all important keys but it has been going well within the group. It's a nice blend of everything you'd really want at the position and a lot of it."

While balancing the rotations and getting everyone involved could prove to be a challenge for coach Gundy and Yurcich, it's a much better problem than the one facing the rest of the league's defensive coordinators in the coming weeks starting with West Virginia on Saturday in Morgantown.

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