NCF Nation: Blake Webb

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Few programs in college football are equipped to overcome losing three of their four most productive receivers from the previous season.

At least without missing a major beat.

[+] EnlargeMarcell Ateman
AP Photo/Brody SchmidtAs a freshman in 2013, Marcell Ateman caught 22 passes for 276 yards for the Cowboys.
But Oklahoma State could be one of those few programs, armed with several young wideouts on the cusp of breaking out in 2014.

Starters Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore, who combined for 146 catches and almost 2,000 receiving yards, are gone, leaving rising sophomore Jhajuan Seales as the only returning starter.

But the Cowboys also welcome back a host of budding young receivers, who seem poised to keep the Oklahoma State passing attack humming.

“I think the receiving corps is going to be good,” Seales said. “I think our offense will be the same. People have to step up and fill in for Tracy and Charlie and those guys. But I think we have the guys who can do that.”

The Cowboys have Seales, which is a nice start.

As a redshirt freshman last season playing alongside Stewart and the Moores, Seales hauled in 39 catches for 571 yards. Two of Seales’ three touchdowns came in two of Oklahoma State’s final three games. Though he still has much to prove, Seales has the same combination of physicality and speed reminiscent of another Cowboy receiver who donned the jersey No. 81 -- Justin Blackmon.

“I feel I can be a go-to guy,” Seales said. “But there are other guys out there who can be that go-to guy, as well.”

Such as Marcell Ateman, who like Seales, carved out a role at outside receiver as a freshman, and caught 22 passes.

“Ateman, when he decides to play hard, he’s a big, physical body,” coach Mike Gundy said.

Sophomores Brandon Sheperd (223 receiving yards) and David Glidden (15 catches) received plenty of time in the rotation last season.

The Cowboys also bring back Blake Webb and Austin Hays, who both started in 2012 as freshmen before injuries sidelined them for virtually the entire 2013 season.

Hays, who played with Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight in high school in San Antonio, started nine games two seasons ago and finished with 394 receiving yards. But he was unable to play most of last season because of a nagging hamstring injury.

“It was so frustrating,” he said. “I kept thinking I was going to come back and never did. Not getting to get on the plane with the team, that very frustrating.”

Hays is close to 100 percent again this spring, and he has shown the versatility to play on the outside or in the slot. But he might have more competition for playing time now than he did two years ago.

The Cowboys signed junior-college speed demon Tyreek Hill, who has already broken numerous sprint records on the track team. Ra'Shaad Samples, who redshirted as a freshman last season, can also fly and reportedly has run the 40-yard dash in 4.32 seconds. Both players could bring major speed to the inside receiver positions.

“Some of those young receivers are starting to make a few plays,” Gundy said. “So it’s exciting that we have talent on our team that can make plays in the future.”

No doubt, Oklahoma State will miss Stewart, Charlie Moore and Tracy Moore at receiver. But that doesn’t mean the Cowboys will miss a beat there, too.

Said Seales: "Now we get to follow in their footsteps.”

Oklahoma State stacked at receiver

August, 5, 2013
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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.”

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