One of the main takeaways of the spring game for myself, and many others I’m sure, was the reassurance that the receiving core is going to be incredibly talented, and incredibly deep this upcoming fall. The Orange team only had 298 receiving yards and 62 of those came from a surprise performance from the redshirt freshman Tyrell Alexander out of Lancaster, Texas.
“He’s one of those guys that’ll come in and make plays.” Head Coach Mike Gundy said of Alexander after the spring game. “You have Dillon Stoner in there that wasn’t even out there today. You’ve got McCleskey that’s in there, and he can come in there and make plays also. We’ve got a pretty big group of guys that can make plays, and he’s one of them.”
And that’s only taking about three guys. You have returning senior and preseason favorite to win the Biletnikoff Award James Washington, who’s 26 career receiving touchdowns mark the highest total among all active FBS heading into the upcoming season. He also leads all active Power Five conference receivers in career receiving yards with 2,923 and he’s averaging 19.2 yards per reception which also leads all PF receivers.
But here’s where the going gets even better for Oklahoma State. The returning Cowboy receivers have a combined total of 1,339 yards and touchdowns from last season. And even those numbers don’t include any production from Marcell Ateman who’s returning from injury, and highly touted transfer from LSU Tyron Johnson. Ateman put up 45 receptions for 766 yards and five touchdowns in the 2015 season before being sidelined with injury. And for Johnson, he played in nine games as just a freshman and had nine receptions for 150 yards and two touchdowns. With an entire year of rehab for Ateman and an entire year redshirt year for Johnson, both these receivers are set to have very productive years in 2017.
Junior Jalen McCleskey had a solid performance in the spring game as well as he put up two receptions for 29 yards. McCleskey, a very fast and reliable playmaker with little or no fear, put up 73 receptions last season which ranked him third in the Big 12 and the most of any returning player in the league for 2017. He averaged 11.1 yards per reception and put up seven touchdowns.
Sophomore Obi Obialo saw some limited action late in four games against Southeastern Louisiana, Kansas, TCU and in the Alamo Bowl against Colorado. Obialo had a phenomenal touchdown grab in the spring game in a 22-yard fade to the corner of the end zone from Taylor Cornelius.
Dillon Stoner, a redshirt freshman out of Jenks, looks to come back and have a production sophomore season after being sidelined for a majority of the 2016 season. In the limited action that he saw last season, he appears to be a very physical receiver out of the slot position who almost seeks out contact. Look for Stoner to make a pretty big impact in the 2017 season and don’t be surprised if you see him line up at QB in the wildcat formation. He won the Class 6A track state championship in the 400 meters as a junior AND had a two-yard touchdown past season against Central Michigan.
And then you have Chris Lacy. A senior, who last season not only put up 31 receptions for 489 yards and three touchdowns, but also won the Vernon Grant Award for Outstanding Leadership, Spirit and Enthusiasm. Lacy had a very productive spring game putting up two receptions for 61 yards. “I’m saying it’s a team effort.” said Lacy on the claim that Oklahoma State has the best receiving core in the nation. “The lineman, they’re the ones that start it. They give Mason time, and Mason he’s makes great passes and we (the receivers) work hard and just go out there and make plays.” Credit where credit’s due huh?
And none of that is even including some of the incoming freshman who very well could make an impact in their first season of action, or any of the Cowboy Back who look for continued success after the departure of Zac Veatch and Blake Jarwin, or any of the running backs that the Cowboys have coming back.