Dallas Colleges: Tracy Moore

Season report card: Oklahoma State

January, 8, 2014
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Oklahoma State was one win away from its second Big 12 championship in three seasons. Yet the Cowboys ended the year with back-to-back losses that cast a disappointing shadow over their season. The preseason Big 12 favorite finished 10-3 with losses to West Virginia, Oklahoma and Missouri but had to clear some hurdles to win double-digit games for the fourth time in five seasons.

Offense: A-

It seems like OSU’s offense took a clear step backward during Mike Yurcich’s first season as offensive coordinator. Yet the Cowboys finished among the top 3 in the Big 12 in most categories, including points per game (39.1), yards per game (448.8) and yards per play (5.9). But their struggles in key moments, like the road loss at West Virginia and on third down (38.6 percent conversion rate, sixth in the Big 12 and No. 60 among FBS teams), drops this grade to an A-.

Quarterback Clint Chelf saved the offense with his performance in the second half of the season, although he experienced some ups and downs of his own at various times. OSU’s receivers were among the deepest in the Big 12 with Charlie Moore, Jhajuan Seales, Tracy Moore and Josh Stewart each looking like top targets at different points in 2013 making the receiving corps the strongest group on the offensive side of the ball.

The Cowboys running game was the main area where the Pokes took a clear step backward, rushing for 171.9 yards per game and losing the balance their offenses had become known for during recent years. Inconsistency at running back and along the offensive line played a major role in those problems.

Defense: A+

For the first time in recent years the Cowboys defense was the foundation of their success. The Cowboys finished atop the Big 12 in several defensive categories including points per game (21.9, No. 19 among FBS teams), third down conversion rate (31.4 percent, No. 7 among FBS teams) and passing yards per attempt (5.8, No. 10 among FBS teams).

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart, Andrew Wilson
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsOklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart, who announced earlier this week that he's entering the 2014 NFL draft, was the top playmaker for the Cowboys this season.
Veteran leadership from linebacker Caleb Lavey, defensive tackle Calvin Barnett and safety Daytawion Lowe made life easier for Glenn Spencer during his first season as defensive coordinator. Barnett was the anchor of a quality defensive line, Lavey joined Shaun Lewis to create a playmaking duo at linebacker and Lowe joined elite cornerback Justin Gilbert as anchors in the secondary.

OSU’s defense had its share of struggles, particularly late in the season, but it was one of the Big 12’s best units from beginning to end.

Special teams: D+

OSU’s special teams cost them a game against West Virginia and didn't help the cause in the team's Bedlam loss. Overall, the special teams unit was below average for the majority of the season. The Cowboys finished at the bottom of the Big 12 in field goal percentage (61.1 percent) and net punting (34.3 net yards per punt). Only the dynamic punt return skills of Stewart and the sheer speed of Gilbert on kick returns kept this grade from being an F.

Overall: B+

Some people will look at this team and say it underachieved while others could look at it and say it overachieved. Problems along the offensive line handcuffed the offense for a good portion of the year and Chelf spending a portion of the year on the sidelines didn’t help. But the Cowboys still found a way to win 10 games and were one drive from winning another Big 12 title.

Player of the week: Big 12

November, 25, 2013
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It was clear when the month began that the Big 12 title race would sort itself out during “no excuses” November.

Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State sat atop the standings with head-to-head matchups approaching at the beginning of this month. Now, with two weeks left in the season, OSU has put itself in the driver’s seat with one game (against OU on Dec. 7) standing between the Cowboys and a Big 12 title.

And Cowboys quarterback Clint Chelf has emerged as the conference’s top clutch performer.

OSU has handed Texas and Baylor their first conference losses in back-to-back weeks, thanks in large part to the versatile skills of Chelf. Against BU on Saturday, Chelf was 19 of 25 for 370 yards and three touchdowns to earn ESPN.com's Big 12 player-of-the-week honors during the Pokes’ 49-17 thrashing of the then-No. 4-ranked Bears.

"Clint was amazing,” receiver Tracy Moore said. “He was running, throwing and even making a catch. There's not much that kid can't do.”

In chilly conditions, Chelf played mistake-free football with accurate passes combining with his cool and calm demeanor in the best game in college football this past weekend. He even added a 48-yard reception on a throwback screen.

“He was accurate, and he made good decisions,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “There were times when we when took some lost yardage because he kept it instead of throwing down the middle.”

The senior is making a strong case he should be considered for All-Big 12 quarterback honors, as his 97.8 adjusted QBR was second nationally for the second straight week. He recorded a 97.3 adjusted QBR in the Cowboys’ 38-13 win over the Longhorns on Nov. 16. OSU’s two biggest wins have been built on the shoulders’ of Chelf’s two best performances of 2013.

“I couldn't be more proud of what he's accomplished,” Gundy said. “He's been a good leader, and he's done it quietly. He's humble. He's had success."

Texas has no answers in loss to OSU

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
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Texas graphicESPN Stats & Information It's been five years and counting since Texas last beat a top-25 team at home.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas got handed a beatdown on Saturday. There’s no other fair way to put it.

In a game billed as one of the Big 12’s biggest of the season, between two teams streaking and in control of their conference title hopes, No. 12 Oklahoma State took control early and never let go in a 38-13 victory over the No. 24 Longhorns.

[+] EnlargeClint Chelf
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Clint Chelf accounted for four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) in the Cowboys' win over Texas.
The Cowboys handed coach Mack Brown the most lopsided home loss of his 16 years in Austin, and there was nothing fluky about it.

OSU won a big-time conference test with a stingy defense, a superior run game, far better special-teams play and three forced turnovers. All against a Texas team that had won six straight and truly believed it could play with the Big 12 title contenders.

“I’m disappointed,” Brown said. “I don’t get stunned about anything anymore.”

The Longhorns, who hadn’t lost in two months, never led in this game. They started slowly, rallied back to 14-10 and then gave the game away in a matter of only seven plays.

The first six came on a 67-yard touchdown drive sparked by a 29-yard pass from Clint Chelf to a wide-open Jhajuan Seales on third-and-10. Two plays later, Chelf sent a pass right into the hands of Texas safety Adrian Phillips that bounced off and into the grasp of receiver Tracy Moore for a 12-yard score.

“It’s just a play I have to make,” Phillips said. “I make that play every day. It just went through my hands. Sometimes when you roll the dice, it doesn’t go your way.”

Down 21-10 with 75 seconds left in the first half, Texas’ offensive coaches opted to roll the dice and go for a score. They got one. OSU corner Justin Gilbert baited Case McCoy into throwing an out that Gilbert picked off and returned 43 yards to the end zone.

“Yeah, I was forcing things. There’s no doubt about it,” McCoy said.

McCoy threw two more interceptions on the day, including one swiped by linebacker Caleb Lavey that the Cowboys turned into a 21-yard touchdown one play later. That was the final score of the day, and with 1:54 left in the third quarter, the game was over.

“The quarterback goes out and throws three picks, you’re not going to win the ballgame,” McCoy said. “It’s very rare that happens. So it’s on me, my team knows it’s on me and we’re going to get it fixed and go win.”

That's not to single out McCoy and Phillips. There were mistakes all over the field in this game, and OSU repeatedly capitalized. Texas had no answer in the second half. One field goal and no spark. No big plays, no momentum, no change. It hadn't faced that feeling in a long time.

And there’s not much to second-guess. Oklahoma State was the far superior team. Brown was asked afterward about his usage of freshman quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, which remains one of the great red herrings of Texas’ issues this season. Brown offered as honest an answer as he could have.

“You never make decisions when you’re tired and when you’re frustrated,” he said. “I’d say we’re both tonight.”

The clichés his players will lean on after this one -- about 24-hour rules and not letting one loss become two -- are actually apt. Texas still has plenty to play for. This team needs help to get to the Fiesta Bowl, yes. But Texas (7-3, 6-1 Big 12) gets more than 10 days to prepare for a Thanksgiving meeting with Texas Tech. Win that one and it'll still be in the thick of things with a trip to Waco on the horizon.

For now, though, all the Longhorns can worry about is fixing themselves. They made things far too easy for a talented Oklahoma State team that had very little trouble doing what it wanted to do in.

Brown wasn’t ready to assign much blame after the game. A thorough film session is needed before he can reach some conclusions, and he knows this season isn’t over yet.

“There’s a lot of football to be played,” Brown said. “You just can’t get your head down and lay down and quit when you have a bad night. You have to go back to work.”

There’s plenty of work to be done, even after the two-month run this team was on. Texas got its big moment on Saturday and got flat-out beat. Its Big 12 title hopes took a blow. We’ll know in two weeks whether it was a fatal one.

Video: Oklahoma State WR Tracy Moore

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
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Oklahoma State wide receiver Tracy Moore discusses the Cowboys' 38-13 victory at Texas on Saturday and what it means for their Big 12 title hopes.

Best WR tandems in Big 12 history

November, 4, 2013
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The Big 12 has featured some prolific wide receiver tandems over the years.

Baylor’s Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley, however, have a chance to top that list.

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley, Tevin Reese
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsAntwan Goodley and Tevin Reese rank 1-2 in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game.
This season, Reese is second in the Big 12 with 118 yards receiving a game. He trails only Goodley, who leads the league with an average of 128 yards receiving. They are a big reason why the Bears are on pace to break the FBS records for points (56.0) and yards (624.9) per game that were set by Army in 1944 and Houston in 1989.

But Reese and Goodley aren’t the only big-time duos in the Big 12 this year.

Kansas State’s Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett have been lighting it up since returning from injury. The last two weeks the two have totaled five touchdown catches.

Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard lead the Sooners with five touchdowns apiece. Texas Tech’s Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant are fifth and sixth in the league in receiving. Oklahoma State’s Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore are beginning to warm up with Clint Chelf at QB. And Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis have been stalwarts in this league for years.

But who are the best tandems ever to play Big 12? We lay it out below.

Tight ends were not included (sorry Jermaine Gresham and Chase Coffman). The tandems were evaluated on what they accomplished together, not on whether their careers simply overlapped (eliminating Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander, for example); and, this is a list for duos, not singles, trios or quartets (apologies to Rashaun Woods, and the 2008 Oklahoma and 2010 Baylor receiving corps).

To the list:

1. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012): In their only year in the league, this tandem was one-two in the Big 12 in receiving, combining for 224 receptions and 2,914 receiving yards. Bailey himself had 25 receiving touchdowns; nobody else in the league had more than 13. Austin, meanwhile, also rushed for 344 yards in one game at running back. As Bailey tweeted out earlier Monday morning on this topic, “case closed.”

2. Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola, Texas Tech (2007): Crabtree got all the headlines in 2007 on his way to winning his first of two Biletnikoff awards. But out of the slot, Amendola quietly put up 109 receptions for 1,245 yards, as Tech went 9-4.

3. Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, Texas (2008): Shipley and Cosby starred on one of the three best Big 12 teams that didn’t win a conference title. The two each had 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit TDs from QB Colt McCoy, as the Longhorns finished the year 12-1, their only loss coming on Crabtree’s game-winning touchdown in the final seconds in Lubbock. The two were also prolific on special teams, with Shipley’s kick return touchdown sparking Texas’ 45-35 comeback win over Oklahoma.

4. Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper, Oklahoma State (2011): As with Crabtree-Amendola, Blackmon got all the attention on his way to a second Biletnikoff award. But Cooper was a pivotal piece in OSU’s first Big 12 title team, as he racked up 71 receptions out of the slot. Blackmon, of course, had a monster year with 121 catches and 18 touchdowns.

5. Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, Baylor (2011): Reese was actually the third wheel to this duo, which shined with RGIII at quarterback. Wright was an All-American with 108 catches, 1,663 yard and 14 touchdowns. Williams was big time, too, finishing fifth in the Big 12 in receiving before taking over the No. 1 role in 2012.

6. Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma (2010): Broyles led college football with 131 receptions on his way to becoming the all-time FBS leader in career catches. Stills broke OU’s freshman single-season receiving record, as the Sooners stormed back to capture the Big 12 crown after a pair of midseason losses.

7. Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2008): It might be difficult to remember now, but the Jayhawks used to play some ball. Meier tied Crabtree for second in the league with 97 receptions. Briscoe trailed only Dez Bryant with 1,402 receiving yards. This was an underrated duo.

8. Quincy Morgan and Aaron Lockett, Kansas State (1999): On one of the first passing teams in the Big 12, Morgan and Lockett shined. Morgan had 42 receptions for 1,007 yards and nine touchdowns and was a first-team all-conference selection. Lockett, Tyler Lockett's uncle, was a second-team all-league pick for the Wildcats, who went 11-1 and finished the year ranked sixth in the polls.

9. Jarrett Hicks and Joel Filani, Texas Tech (2005): Neither might be a household name around the Big 12 anymore, but these two were both first-team All-Big 12 selections in ’05 along with Iowa State WR Todd Blythe.

10. Mark Clayton and Travis Wilson, Oklahoma (2004): Clayton carried the moniker of best receiver in OU history until Broyles came around. Because of Adrian Peterson, Clayton’s numbers dipped in ’04, but he was still an All-American with 66 catches. Wilson led the Sooners with 11 TD grabs, as OU advanced to a second consecutive national championship game.

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- An iPhone App said that it was 84 degrees on Mississippi State's campus Tuesday afternoon, which could only be true if Starkville was located at the bottom of a lake. It's only a few minutes into the start of practice and you can see the players struggling with the humid, sapping conditions. Coaches shout at the medical staff to "Water the O-line!" as if the assembly of 300-pound men were a patch of wilting dandelions.

One of the team doctors takes issue with the readout. Robert Collins, a white-haired holdover from the Jackie Sherrill era, says it's at least 5-6 degrees warmer on the practice field most days, and that's not counting the radiant heat, a measurement he argues is a much more accurate gauge of how hot it actually feels. Inside the players helmets, it's a good 20 degrees warmer, he says.

[+] EnlargeBenardrick McKinney
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreThe Mississippi State defensive coaches hope to see more "juice" out of Benardick McKinney and the rest of the Bulldogs defenders.
It feels hot watching the Bulldogs run through individual and team drills. There's no shade for onlookers and even less relief for the players trying to catch their breath. Rick Ray, the school's basketball coach, wears a oversized bucket hat to keep from burning. He's here to watch 6-foot-5 freshman wideout De'Runnya Wilson, who came to school this summer with intentions of playing both sports, though it looks like football will keep him from doing so.

"They're killing the sled," said Ray, craning his neck to the far side of the field where the defensive linemen are working. "You can hear it all the way over here."

A few minutes later, players break from their position groups and begin to practice live action. What happened next should have looked familiar to Ray. It wasn't basketball, but the tempo sure looked like it. All that was missing was the high pitch of sneakers screeching on hardwood floor.

Mississippi State has long been a team that likes to run the football and control the clock, but today both sides of the ball are working at a full sprint. The NASCAR offense, as coaches call it, is in full effect. There's almost no break between plays. The first series is over before there's even time to measure it by hand. Ready for the second series, the average time between the blow of the whistle and the snap clocks in at roughly 19 seconds.

Players aren't the only ones running. Coaches are, too. Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins waves his hands like a man possessed and screams at his cornerback to, "Crank your a-- up!" before he's dropped to the scout team.

Time, you see, is of the essence.

Oklahoma State and its high-octane offense await Mississippi State on Saturday. The Cowboys, who finished seventh nationally in passing a year ago, averaged one play every 20.3 seconds. Fifty-eight of their 69 offensive touchdowns came on drives that lasted 3 minutes or less. Under the direction of coach Mike Gundy, they scored 19 touchdowns in under 60 seconds, good enough for third in the country.

"Once their tempo gets started, it's like a train rolling downhill," Collins said earlier in the day, "it's kind of hard to stop it."

For more than seven months, Mississippi State has been preparing for Oklahoma State and its no-huddle offense. Collins has stressed to his players that the best way to stop it is to never let it get going in the first place. Negative plays and pass breakups, he says, put the offense at a disadvantage. Throwing off the tempo is the only real option, because once the Cowboys have a defense on its heels, it's lights out.

(Read full post)

Big 12 sees chance to narrow SEC gap

August, 28, 2013
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During the offseason, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops defiantly dismissed the SEC’s supposed superiority over the Big 12 as pure “propaganda.”

“They’ve had the best team in college football,” Stoops bristled, when asked how the Big 12 could narrow the gap with the SEC.

“They haven’t had the whole conference.”

That theory will be put to the test on the field this weekend, as two neutral-site, Big 12-SEC showdowns highlight the opening Saturday of college football.

[+] EnlargeGary Patterson
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesGary Patterson and TCU could make a huge statement about the strength of the Big 12 with a win over LSU on Saturday.
Preseason Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State will meet Mississippi State at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Later that night, TCU will take on LSU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“Any time you get a chance to play a team in the SEC,” said Oklahoma State wide receiver Tracy Moore, “you have something to prove.”

Which is why for the SEC, it’s just another Saturday. For the Big 12, it’s way more. One conference has nothing to prove; the other, most definitely something.

Justified or not, the Big 12 has been fighting a losing battle lately with the SEC in the court of public perception, which anymore is -– and will be -– half the battle in college football.

Just ask Mike Gundy, whose Cowboys lost out to Alabama for a berth in the BCS title game two years ago, even though Oklahoma State had three more wins over ranked opponents than the Crimson Tide did.

"I don’t think there’s any question the Mississippi State game is a big game," Gundy said. "The way the BCS is set up and eventually with the [playoff], these games factor in. If we as an administration decide to play these games, then you have to be ready for that to factor in the nation's perspective of your football team after that game. I don’t think it’s going to be any other way.”

For the Big 12, the national perspective has not been flattering. Even though nine Big 12 teams were good enough to go to bowls last season -– the crux of Stoops’ counterargument -– none apparently were good enough to begin in the Associated Press' Top 10 for the first time in the history of the conference.

“I do think our league has not gotten the credit nationally it deserves,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “As we keep looking at it over the next couple of years, the Big 12 will gain that respect.”

The Big 12 doesn’t have to wait years. Only days, as the weekend offers a prime opportunity for the league to show it can go toe-to-toe against college football’s preeminent conference.

“The only thing that should be talked about is what happens on Saturday –- and that will be the only way we’ll ever change all that,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “The only way we’ll ever catch the SEC -– if that is true that we’re behind them –- is you’ve got to play them.”

Credit the Big 12 for at least doing that.

On top of this weekend’s SEC tilts, Texas will play host to Ole Miss in two weeks. In 2014-15, Oklahoma has a home-and-home with Tennessee; Texas Tech, the same with Arkansas.

The Big 12 has also signed three bowl agreements with the SEC, including the Champions Bowl, which will pit the two best non-playoff teams from each conference against one another in New Orleans.

But there’s a difference between scheduling the SEC and defeating it.

“That’s always been the best way,” Patterson said. “We have to prove when we get the opportunity to play well or win. That’s the key. Obviously, you can’t have what it looked like in the Cotton Bowl, either.”

The last decade of Cotton Bowls, for that matter.

The SEC has won nine of 10 meetings over the Big 12 in the Cotton Bowl, which has been the highest profile bowl game between the two conferences. The SEC’s average margin of victory in those nine wins is two touchdowns, which, of course, includes Texas A&M’s 28-point annihilation of Oklahoma last season.

To stop the hemorrhaging, the Big 12 can ill-afford for two of its contenders to get taken out on national television by programs projected to finish third and sixth in the SEC West.

“It would be something we’ll never be able to overcome, at least until we got another opportunity,” said Cowboys defensive tackle Calvin Barnett, who signed with Arkansas out of high school. “At the end of the day, we are representing the Big 12. It’s a big week for us.”

The Big 12 can’t narrow the entire SEC superiority gap in a week, whether that gap is real or propaganda. But in a day, TCU and Oklahoma State can prove the Big 12 is deserving of more respect.

“The SEC, they deserve the respect they get,” Cowboys linebacker Shaun Lewis said.

“Hopefully we can earn some, too.”

Oklahoma State season preview

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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Today we continue our Big 12 preview by taking a look at Oklahoma State, the preseason media favorite to win the league in 2013.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Coach: Mike Gundy (67-35, 8 seasons; 67-35 at OSU, 8 seasons)

2012 record: 8-5 (5-4 Big 12)

Key losses: RB Joseph Randle, K Quinn Sharp, QB Wes Lunt, OL Lane Taylor, CB Brodrick Brown, LB Alex Elkins

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart
Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Josh Stewart was one of the top receivers in the Big 12 last season as a sophomore.
Key returnees: WR Josh Stewart, DT Calvin Barnett, CB Justin Gilbert, LB Shaun Lewis, S Daytawion Lowe, QB Clint Chelf, S Shamiel Gary, LB Caleb Lavey, WR Tracy Moore, QB J.W. Walsh

Newcomer to watch: The Cowboys have considerable depth at wide receiver entering the fall, but Ra'Shaad Samples could have a breakthrough debut season. The freshman from Dallas was an Under Armour All-American and ran a 4.32 in the 40 this summer.

Biggest games in 2013: A lot could be on the line at Bedlam this year when Oklahoma comes to town on Dec. 7. Texas, TCU and Baylor will all be tough conference tests, and OSU doesn’t start off with a cupcake: The Cowboys will travel to Houston to take on Mississippi State on Aug. 31.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Can the Cowboys win the close ones this year? It’s anyone’s league in 2013, and preseason favorite Oklahoma State could struggle to win it outright if the team can’t get it done in the big games like last season. A five-point loss to Texas, three-point overtime defeat against Oklahoma and seven-point loss at Baylor accounted for three of OSU’s five losses last fall. Perhaps more stability at the quarterback spot after juggling three in 2012 will help put the Pokes over the top.

Forecast: Preseason prognostication is all about paper, about how good a team’s projected depth chart looks, and how tough a schedule appears before pads are even put on. On paper, Oklahoma State looks like a potentially great team in 2013.

The Cowboys bring back 15 starters, including perhaps the Big 12’s best receiver (Stewart) and defensive tackle (Barnett). Either Chelf or Walsh could win the starting job and OSU would still have one of the league’s best passers behind center. The cupboard of talent looks pretty stocked.

Mike Gundy finds himself in an enviable position with his preseason Big 12 favorites, but there will be several challengers to the throne. His Cowboys have a chance to go 9-0 if they knock off TCU at home. The final stretch -- Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma -- is tricky, but two games are at home and there’s a bye before OU. The Pokes have the talent and the schedule needed to win this league, there’s no doubt about that.

There are really two big question marks that must be overcome, questions OSU fans are no doubt tired of asking. The first surrounds the team's two new coordinators, including its fourth new offensive coordinator in five years. What will Mike Yurcich, the intriguing hire from Division II’s Shippensburg, bring to the table?

The second is the defense. New defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has to fix up a unit that held up well in victory last season but gave up 47.2 points per game in its five defeats.

Oklahoma State stacked at receiver

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
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STILLWATER, Okla. -- Through the years, Oklahoma State’s high-powered offense has featured better individual receivers. Wideouts like Hart Lee Dykes, Rashaun Woods, Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon -- who were all first-round draft picks.

Yet top to bottom, coach Mike Gundy agrees his Cowboys have never featured a deeper, more talented overall receiving corps than the one he’ll take into this season.

[+] EnlargeJosh Stewart
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsJosh Stewart is just one of the many solid players returning for the Cowboys' receiving corps this season.
“I think we have a really good group,” he said. “At times it’s a little unfair to compare guys to Dez and Blackmon -- two of the most talented guys to compete in this league.

“But from top to bottom ... we have 10 or 12 guys that I think in three weeks could play in a game and go out there with the ones and have success. So we may be as good at that position as we’ve ever been -- without having maybe a potential first-round guy.”

The Cowboys might not have that potential first-round pick, but thanks to the fortuitous timing of an injury, they do have two go-to guys.

Oklahoma State went into 2012 counting on senior Tracy Moore to take over for Blackmon as the No. 1 receiver. Moore proved up to the challenge, hauling in four touchdown passes in a shootout loss at Arizona early in the season. But a month later, Moore’s season was derailed when he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the year.

“Other than (running back) Joseph Randle, before Tracy got hurt, he was our best player on offense,” Gundy said.

Moore getting hurt, however, provided a silver lining that should benefit the Cowboys this season: it cleared the way for Josh Stewart to shine out of the slot. After taking over as Oklahoma State’s primary pass-catcher, Stewart rapidly developed into one of the most dangerous receivers in college football and finished with 101 receptions, third-most in the Big 12.

And because Moore played less than 30 percent of the 2012 season, he was given a medical redshirt to come back, providing Oklahoma State with two playmakers who have shouldered the No. 1 receiver role.

“Not a lot of teams have that,” Stewart said.

Moore and Stewart will have plenty of help, too.

The Cowboys return two other starters at receiver in Charlie Moore and Blake Jackson, who combined for more than 65 receptions and 1,000 yards last season. Oklahoma State also brings back Austin Hays, who filled in admiringly after Tracy Moore got hurt with 29 catches, and Blake Webb, who got the start against Oklahoma.

“It’s crazy because last year I thought that we had great depth at the position,” said Jackson, who plays on the inside opposite Stewart. “Now getting Tracy back for another year, it’s crazy how many good receivers we have. We have 12 guys that could start right now and we’d be productive and keep moving.”

Among those 12 are underclassmen David Glidden, Brandon Sheperd and Jhajuan Seales, who all are vying for time. Seales has been especially turning heads. Gundy singled him out as someone who developed physically during the offseason as much as anyone on the squad.

“Anyone in the starting lineup go down, we’ve got someone that could fill them up at every spot and do good, and I’m not just saying that,” Stewart said. “We’ve had pretty good depth the last three years -- but nothing like this.”

The Cowboys are also about to reap the benefits of more fruitful recruiting efforts. In its most recent signing class, Oklahoma State landed four-star receivers Ra'Shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman, incoming freshmen who appear talented enough to contribute right away.

“The success we’re having has a lot to do with this, the previous success,” Tracy Moore said. “People see what Blackmon did, people see what Dez Bryant did. They want to come here and we’re getting top guys now."

The Cowboys don’t have a Blackmon or a Bryant. But the position in Stillwater has never been better.

“We are so stacked on receivers,” Moore said. “We’re definitely pretty stacked.”

Ten Big 12 receivers on Biletnikoff list

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
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Ten Big 12 players made the watch list for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given annually to college football's top receiver.
It's a little surprising to see Metoyer on that list after he caught just 17 passes for 148 yards and a score last year, especially when fellow freshman Sterling Shepard hauled in 45 balls for 621 yards for the Sooners. I don't really get how that happened. I probably would have included Kansas State's Tyler Lockett, too, who caught 44 balls for 692 yards a year ago.


Besides that, a good list from the Big 12's perspective.

Justin Blackmon won the award in 2010 and 2011, and Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree's wins in 2007 and 2008 have given the Big 12 four of the past six Biletnikoff Awards. West Virginia's Stedman Bailey and Baylor's Terrance Williams were both finalists last season, losing to USC's Marqise Lee. The league's reputation for receivers precedes itself, but this year most of the receivers across the Big 12 have a lot to prove.

Best- and worst-case scenario: Okla. State

June, 26, 2013
6/26/13
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Time for the next in our series on the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team in the Big 12.

The Cowboys are my pick to win the Big 12 in 2013, but here's how high they could fly, and how low they could fall.

Other best- and worst-case scenarios.

Best-case scenario

STILLWATER, Okla. -- The Cowboys began their season with a victory against an SEC team, and ended it with a loss to one.

The Cowboys rolled through their nonconference slate with three wins all by at least 20 points, including a rout of Mississippi State. Early struggles in their Big 12 opener at West Virginia gave way to 21 consecutive second-half points and a 17-point victory. OSU took a top-10 ranking back home and made it look easy against Kansas State before TCU brought the first real fight to the Cowboys. Both defenses starred, and Clint Chelf was able to come back from a sack/fumble courtesy of Devonte Fields that gave TCU a fourth-quarter lead. Josh Stewart's four catches on the eventual game-winning drive pushed OSU to a 24-20 win in Stillwater.

Ames and Lubbock have been difficult places for the Cowboys to win at times, but OSU proved the better team in both trips, which were largely incident-free and pushed OSU to 8-0; a KU rout a week later meant 9-0.

The pressure was officially built for the home stretch. The trip to Texas to face a top-10 Longhorns squad had plenty of hype, but OSU's turnover-free performance helped it hold off a late Texas rally for a 31-27 win. Baylor brought its big guns the next week and embarrassed the OSU defense, but Blake Jackson, Tracy Moore and Stewart answered, helping Chelf rack up 400 yards and five scores in a 47-44 win, giving OSU a spotless 11-0 record heading into Bedlam. No surprise here: Another classic for bragging rights in the Sooner State, which won't be a Sooner State for the next year after the Pokes' overtime victory. Last year, Blake Bell broke the Cowboys' hearts. This year, it's Jeremy Smith's turn, breaking two tackles for the game-winning score, setting off another field-storming and a trip to the national title game. A loss to Alabama at the Rose Bowl tasted bitter, but nobody's forgetting these Cowboys anytime soon.

FINAL RECORD: 12-1

Worst-case scenario

STILLWATER, Okla. -- You know how you can predict whether or not a season's going to be a disappointment? Losing as a two-touchdown favorite in the season opener is a great start, and that's what OSU fans who traveled to Houston got. The Cowboys survived their first two conference games against West Virginia and Kansas State, but an ugly loss to TCU had fans wondering whether or not it was still possible to bring Wes Lunt back.

Chelf won back some doubters with a fourth-quarter comeback in Ames against Iowa State the next week, but a trip to Lubbock sent the Pokes to a disappointing 5-3 mark with the toughest stretch of the schedule to come. Just like last season, Oklahoma State narrowly avoided an embarrassing loss by holding off KU late, but Stillwater braced itself to face three of the Big 12's best teams in a big finish to 2013.

Predictably, all three sent Oklahoma State home disappointed and ended a hyped season with a modest 6-6 mark. The Pokes got tangled up in the Big 12's depth and proved that, just like West Virginia in 2012 and Texas A&M in 2011, if you don't turn in a high-quality performance for 60 minutes every week, there are many teams in the Big 12 who can beat even the league's most talented squads. Welcome back to the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Oklahoma State.

FINAL RECORD: 6-6
Phil Steele knows college football, and rolled out his preseason all-conference teams recently, including the Big 12.

You can see the full conference picks here, but plenty of interesting selections from the college football guru. ESPN.com's teams won't be released until much later this offseason, but here's a few thoughts on Steele's teams:
  • Is it a little bit crazy to pick a guy who has thrown 10 career passes as your first-team All-Big 12 quarterback? Absolutely. If I had to pick one, though, would I tab Baylor's Bryce Petty as the first-team All-Big 12 quarterback to close the season? Yes, I would. Generally, I see preseason honors as a "Who's had the best career to this point?" type of deal and not as much of a prediction, but that's a personal belief and not anything the Big 12 officially states when it sends out preseason All-Big 12 ballots. Petty is an intriguing choice as the Big 12's No. 1 quarterback that's obviously going to draw attention, but I'm not going to be one to argue.
  • I'd say selecting Petty as the Big 12's No. 1 QB says just as much about the rest of the guys in the Big 12 than it does about Petty. Steele tabbed TCU's Casey Pachall as his second-teamer, Texas' David Ash as his third and Oklahoma's Blake Bell on the fourth team. I'd say Clint Chelf or Michael Brewer belongs in that mix, but none of those guys have the statistical potential of Petty. Pachall makes great decisions on the field, but TCU's offense doesn't give him the capability to routinely roll up 400-yard games. Ash is above average, but he's not a world-beater (doesn't need to be for Texas to win a Big 12 title, I might add) and still has to prove he can be more consistent.
  • This might be the deepest season at running back we've seen in a long time. I'd put John Hubert or James Sims ahead of Oklahoma's Damien Williams, but good selections from Steele to give Andrew Buie, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown a little love, too. Opportunities are all that's limited Jeremy Smith from having a big year. He'll have them now, and I'm betting on him to be the seventh consecutive Oklahoma State running back to top 1,000 yards.
  • Conversely, this could be one of the weakest years for wide receivers. There are a lot of above average receivers in the league, but there's not a guy that jumps out as one defenses really fear and spend a ton of time game-planning for. Mike Davis and Josh Stewart are good, somewhat obvious picks for the first team, but I'd go with Jalen Saunders ahead of Tracy Moore, and probably Eric Ward, too.
  • Tough picks this year at safety, which has been easy for a while in the Big 12 with Tony Jefferson and Kenny Vaccaro hanging around. Tons of depth at that position. Steele went with Ty Zimmerman and Daytawion Lowe as his first-teamers. I'd probably say Joseph over Lowe by a hair but even when you get down to third-teamers like Baylor's Ahmad Dixon or fourth-teamers like Iowa State's Jacques Washington and Texas' Adrian Phillips, you're talking about guys who can really, really play. Could be a very defensive year in the Big 12, relative to what we're used to seeing in this league. Look at the cornerbacks, too. The dropoff from the first to third teams is negligible. Aaron Colvin and Jason Verrett have NFL-type measurables, but so do Justin Gilbert and Quandre Diggs and third-teamers Carrington Byndom and Joe Williams could be strong.
  • Steele illustrates the weight of Delvon Simmons' departure from Texas Tech. The defensive lineman was on Steele's second team before leaving school and electing to transfer. Kliff Kingsbury said last week he wants guys who want to be Red Raiders, but it's still a big loss for the Tech defense.
  • What about the kickers? It seems like everybody in the league hates their kicker these days, but two guys on Steele's list have their jobs up for grabs. Iowa State's Edwin Arceo is a second-teamer, but he'll be battling freshman Cole Nettlen to even get on the field once fall camp begins. Fourth-teamer Ron Doherty from Kansas is on the chopping block, too. Weis was displeased with just about every facet of his special-teams units last year, and completely revamped the way the units are coached. Every assistant coach now is in charge of one facet of special teams, instead of having one special teams coach. He brought in juco kicker Nick Pardula to try and fix those issues, too. He'll compete with Doherty in the fall, but Weis raved about Pardula's big leg when I talked with him last month. First-teamers Jaden Oberkrom from TCU and Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Kamp are certified studs, but it could be an ugly year elsewhere in Big 12 special teams.

Weak and Strong: Oklahoma State Cowboys

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
2:30
PM CT
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.

Next up: Oklahoma State.

Strongest position: Pass-catchers

I'll have to apologize to Oklahoma State's trio of safeties in Daytawion Lowe, Shamiel Gary and Zack Craig here, but I'm going with the guys hauling in balls in OSU's pass-first offense as the strongest position. I don't care to debate whether Blake Jackson is a receiver or a tight end (he's the former), but I'm obviously including him in this group. He'll be an interesting guy to watch this year after struggling with drops but clearly possessing loads of potential and averaging better than 20 yards a catch on his 29 grabs.

Oklahoma State had nine players with at least 12 catches and 150 receiving yards last season and returns six of those players, including Tracy Moore, who was given an extra year of eligibility. He won't be joined by Michael Harrison, who sat out 2012 and was expected to return, but won't be doing so after a strong 2011 season under Justin Blackmon.

Somehow, we've gotten this far without mentioning the unit's headliner, breakout star Josh Stewart. He was overshadowed by a trio of superstars in Baylor's Terrance Williams and West Virginia's Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, but all three are gone and Stewart is easily the Big 12's best returning receiver. He caught 101 balls for 1,210 yards and seven scores last season, which is more than 150 yards more than any other returning receiver in the league. Stewart's underrated for now, but that could change soon, even though Oklahoma State has a ton of depth at the position with guys like Austin Hays and Charlie Moore filling out the position and Blake Webb emerging late in the season. Will incoming freshmen like Ra'Shaad Samples and Marcell Ateman find space to make an impact right away? It won't be easy, because this is Oklahoma State's biggest strength.

Weakest position: Defensive end

I've got nothing against juco transfers, who can walk on campus and be game-changers immediately, but if you're bringing in guys to do that, it shows a weakness at the position. Oklahoma State is doing that with Sam Wren, the nation's No. 16 overall juco prospect, after the Pokes lost three defensive ends from last season's team in Nigel Nicholas, Ryan Robinson and Cooper Bassett. Tyler Johnson is a solid player who made six tackles for loss a year ago, but OSU needs to find him help on the other side or opponents will be able to shut him down with double teams. Kansas State's Joe Bob Clements is a new addition to the staff who'll coach the position and try to sort it out this spring, but look for guys like Trace Clark, Jimmy Bean and early enrollee Naim Mustafaa to try to earn a starting spot, too.

More Weak and Strong.

Poll: WVU's Gibson biggest impact frosh

February, 21, 2013
2/21/13
4:00
PM CT
Earlier this week, I asked you to vote for which incoming freshman you thought would have the biggest impact in 2013.

The fans spoke, and West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson finished solidly in the No. 1 spot with 33 percent of the vote. He was well ahead of the No. 2 finisher, Baylor receiver Robbie Rhodes, who grabbed 23 percent of the vote.

I'd agree with those two having an immediate impact. I don't know if you can expect either to finish with 90 catches, but I'd be surprised if both Gibson and Rhodes didn't both make their presence known next fall. For freshmen, opportunity might be more important than skill itself. Both players obviously have the latter, but Baylor and West Virginia's offenses both provide opportunity. With a pair of receiving corps that are drained (more so West Virginia than Baylor), the pass-happy offenses will have to find targets. Rhodes is in the middle of the road when it comes to size, but Gibson's small and shifty frame could help him get open and get touches early in his career.

Oklahoma safety Hatari Byrd will have an opportunity with a pair of lost safeties from last year's team, and he edged out Ra'Shaad Samples with 18 percent, compared to Samples' 17 percent. Samples is entering a situation similar to Rhodes and Gibson, but Oklahoma State has a few more established weapons like Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and the expected return of Michael Harrison, as well as the late emergence of Austin Hays.

Incoming TCU running back Kyle Hicks grabbed just 9 percent of the vote. It sound like the other 91 percent of voters didn't believe he could fight through Aaron Green, B.J. Catalon and Waymon James to earn some touches in TCU's offense.

These guys will be fun to watch over their careers, and it's not all about the first season on campus.

Thirty Big 12 players off to NFL combine

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
2:00
PM CT
The NFL scouting combine is the biggest annual showcase of future football stars before the NFL draft, where players who have entered the draft get measured, run through drills and show scouts and coaches what they can do without any pads on.

This year, a record 333 players have been invited, and the Big 12 landed 30 invitations.

Draft stock can swing wildly during the week, with the main event -- the 40 time -- often serving as the catalyst for that stock. Call it silly, and in some ways it is, but it's the reality of the process. Here's who's headed to Indianapolis from the Big 12:
Pretty good set of players there. You can see them when the combine kicks off Feb. 20.

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