Position by Position: Receivers

The staff of Go Pokes Magazine recently completed work on the Football Preview issue of Go Pokes Magazine and we are tremendously excited about the outcome. This may be one of the best issues in the history of our magazine. However, that is for you to decide.

A challenge that I have taken on each year is how to make what is a football preview staple, the position by position preview, more exciting and fresh other than what you see in most football preview magazines. In the past we have compared the Oklahoma State position groups to the best in the Big 12, the best all-time at OSU, and others.

This year we are comparing the 2008 team to the 2005 team, Mike Gundy's first squad, the one he mostly inherited. I am often asked, and I have heard Mike Gundy and his coaches often asked, how much better the program is talent-wise since Gundy took over? It is unscientific. Here is a preview of what we did. To protect the magazine it is edited down somewhat and is missing the final scores we assigned to each group, both 2008 and 2005.

We started with the offensive line and now here is the wide receivers and tight ends.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
2008 vs. 2005
WR-X 1 Dez Bryant, 6-2, 210, So. WR-X 84 D'Juan Woods, 6-1, 210, Jr.
9 Jeremy Broadway, 6-0, 195, Jr. 5 Errick McCown, 5-11, 175, Sr.

WR-A 7 Bo Bowling, 5-9, 190, Jr. WR-A 7 Tommy Devereaux, 6-1, 175, So.
25 Josh Cooper, 5-11, 190, Fr. 3 Greg Gold, 5-9, 200, Jr.

WR-Z 80 DeMarcus Conner, 6-1, 200, Jr. WR-Z 24 Luke Frazier, 6-0, 195, Sr.
83 Artrell Woods, 6-1, 200, So. 86 Tevin Williams, 6-3, 205, Jr.

TE 87 Brandon Pettigrew, 6-6, 260, Sr. TE 88 Paschal Smith, 6-4, 270, So.
86 Wilson Youman, 6-4, 245, RS-Fr. 87 Brandon Pettigrew, 6-5, 255, RS-Fr.

Adarius Bowman was a huge weapon but believe it or not Dez Bryant may be better. When Bowman was hurt against Kansas, Bryant almost instantly stepped up and replaced Bowman as the major playmaker at wide receiver.

Combine Bryant with junior college transfer Bo Bowling, who showed in spring that he could make plays in the offense; Josh Cooper, who has deceptive speed that also allows him to break big plays, and Artrell Woods, who may not be all the way back from last summer's freak weight room accident but is getting close. The situation with depth coming from 6-7 target Damian Davis, DeMarcus Cooner, speedy Jeremy Broadway, and the potential of William Cole is enough to make Mike Gundy consider bravado statements.

"I think we will be better at wide receiver than we were last year or the year before because we have an overall depth that we haven't had before," said Gundy at the end of spring. "We can keep some of those guys fresh.

"If Artie Woods comes along, you are looking at Artie, Broadway, and Dez at X. That is three legit guys at X. If Will (Cole) or Hubert (Anyiam) comes along, you are going to have two legit guys at Z, and possibly two or three at A. We haven't had that depth here. We are gaining a little depth at each position each year."

Bryant showed last year that he can be the big-play guy with his 43 receptions for 622 yards and six touchdown. It gets a little scary after that as the combination of Broadway, Davis and Cole had just 17 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown

The X, Z, and A factors are Artrell Woods, who is showing every sign of coming back and maybe being just as good when he electrified everybody -- coaches, teammates, and fans included -- last spring. Bowling and Cooper are two very fast and very elusive players at the slot. Bowling was the Offensive Player of the Year in the Southwest Junior College Conference playing quarterback, running back, and a little wide receiver. Cooper needs healthy hamstrings and if he gets them has proven he can play and do what he did at Mustang High School in being a playmaker.

It starts with Bryant and Gundy wants to see him become a better all-around player.

"The reason we have had success on offense the past two years is the 10 guys on offense that didn't have the ball in their hands," said the Cowboys head coach. "I think Bowman kind of started something here with his style of play when he didn't have the ball and was blocking. He took a lot of pride in it and the younger receivers patterned them selves after him and Coach (Trooper) Taylor has embraced that. As long as guys will continue to do that we'll be fine on offense.

"Statistically, Dez is going to show up from a fan's standpoint as a guy that makes a lot of plays, but when we turn this tape on a lot of times he doesn't do what he has to do for us to have success on offense," continued Gundy. "A big reason we have had success on offense is obviously, we had guys that could make some plays -- Savage, Bowman, Zac Robinson, Pettigrew -- but the other guys played hard all the time and they blocked downfield.

"Dez did some of that but he hasn't matured where he understands how hard he has to play all of the time. So for us he needs to become more of a complete player. The general public sees him jumping and catching and making plays, which he can do probably as good as anybody, but he still needs to develop in the other area."

There is no doubt that tight end is going to be a huge factor for the Cowboys this fall. When you begin drawing the nickname "Superman" it is fairly certain that you're a star. Brandon Pettigrew had the dramatic game winning 54-yard catch and run for a touchdown against Texas Tech in front of the Cowboy fans in the 49-45 win. He also had the clutch 39-yard touchdown to help win homecoming against Kansas State. Pettigrew's legend went on to be named All-Big 12 in a conference loaded with standout tight ends.

"Pettigrew, in my opinion, is really the glue that sticks the whole offense together," said quarterback Zac Robinson. "He does a lot of things that you guys don't see like blocking. We run so much option and he blocks things up. He either sucks a couple of guys to him and someone else is open or he is one on one and open, makes the catch, and breaks tackles and takes it to the house. Missing him in the spring hurt us but we'll be fine when we get him back."

Pettigrew finished last season with 35 receptions for 540 yards and four touchdowns. You can very reasonably expect those numbers to improve this season. He is also an example of the player willing to do whatever it takes -- catch, block, and decoy and do it with the gusto Gundy and Gunter Brewer want to see.

Wilson Youman had the spring to improve and prove to the coaches that he is the right choice as the second tight end. Gundy thinks that will work out, but the Cowboys could end up needing one of three freshmen, either Cooper Bassett, Justin Horton or Jamal Mosley to end up playing.

"Brandon not playing that much this spring has benefited (Youman) and he is coming along and will be a better player in August because of all the work that he's had in spring," said Gundy. "You are talking about a freshman but he is the guy that will be backing up Brandon. Everybody that has watched us knows that tight end is important to our offense.

"There is a really good chance that we will play a freshman tight end. It just depends on how they develop. It depends on how they pick up the system and how strong they are. We would like to play one freshman tight end. Maybe it's two, and maybe two of them can come in and develop and be a player."

We think just from having seen them in person and on tape in high school that Bassett and Mosley might have an edge with a little more size than Justin Horton.

Comparison: The big difference here is speed, but also experience. The speed favors the current crew of wide receivers with Bryant, Broadway, Bowling, Cooper, Cole, and Woods. All of those guys have above average speed. The problem is they are young, inexperienced, or both.

In 2005 the wide receivers were just learning of the emphasis and the opportunities of the spread offense. D'Juan Woods was one of the all-time bests at Oklahoma State and remember the idea that Gundy expressed that Adarius Bowman set a tone with the way he played without the ball. Bowman was sitting out and watching during his transfer year in 2005 and he saw Woods, as an example, block and play well without the ball. Luke Frazier was a veterans and reliable receiver. Tommy Devereaux was the real speedster in 2005, but he struggled with catching the ball consistently and making plays.

This 2008 crew is so young that their history has too much left to be written. It is a certainty that Dez Bryant is more explosive than any receiver on that 2005 team. When you factor in the tight end it becomes overwhelming for the 2008 squad as Brandon Pettigrew has developed into the All-Big 12 tight end. That 2005 group had an All-Big 12 performer in Woods, but Pettigrew and the youngster trump 2005.

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