Dez: Following In Rashaun's Footsteps

Dez Bryant knows he has to maintain his composure when the play is signaled in. But, he admits, it is not always easy. The Oklahoma State receiver has to hide his excitement when he knows Zac Robinson is going to loft the ball to him in one-on-one coverage and the Cowboys count on him outleaping the cornerback for the ball. The play worked to perfection in last Saturday's season-opening win.

The sophomore receiver from Lufkin, Texas caught a game-best seven passes for 90 yards in the Cowboys' 39-13 victory over Washington State, including four of the "jump ball" passes in which Bryant easily went up and over the defender to make the catch. The Cowboys tried the pass two other times and both resulted in the Washington State cornerback being called for pass interference.

"To simplify it, it's really kind of backyard football," Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said of the high fade pass from Robinson to Bryant. "Back when Coach (Les) Miles and I were here, we were effective running the ball, so everybody jumped in the box on us and left Rashaun (Woods) out there all by himself.

"After we were here for three or four games we decided we had to take advantage of that because we had a really good player out there. In most cases, he was probably better at what he did than the corner. We feel like Dez is pretty good about going up and taking the ball out of the air.

"Actually, Dez is more physical in my opinion. He's good about bodying up (with the cornerback). Rashaun was a great leaper and could take the ball at the highest point, and Dez can do that to but I think he's a little more physical. So, if they overload the run, we just try to take advantage of it. But it all comes back to signing day. If you don't have a guy out there that can do it, the play's not any good. You can draw it up on the board but you have to have a guy out there who's really athletic and has the ability to go get the ball."

The Houston Cougar starting cornerbacks who will be responsible Saturday for attempting to stop the 6-2, 210-pound Bryant in OSU's home opener will be junior Brandon Brinkley (6-0, 180) and senior Quinte Williams (5-11, 165). If they attempt to use man-to-man coverage – as Washington State did last Saturday – it should be a mismatch for the taller, stronger Bryant.

"I love it because I know if it's man coverage we're probably going to check out of it," Bryant said. "I know that if the coaching staff calls that play I've got to do my job and make the play no matter what coverage the defense is in."

Bryant says when the high fade route is signaled in he has just one thought on his mind. "The only thing I think about is catching the ball," Bryant said. "I really don't think about nothing else. I really don't care about getting high (into the air) or anything like that; I just want to make the play."

But he did admit that he has to hide his enthusiasm when he knows he's going to get the ball thrown his way. "I know that I just have to go up and make the play, and I know that I have to catch the ball," Bryant said. "Sometimes (it's hard not to get too excited) but it's almost like giving it away when I move out there and the defense knows something is going to happen. So I'm just out there trying to line up the same way as if the ball was being run."

Bryant attributes a lot of the play's success to Robinson. "We work on it a lot in practice," he said. "We have good timing on that play. Zac knows where I'm going to be at and I know where he's going to throw the ball."

Bryant had an outstanding freshman season a year ago, catching 43 passes for 622 yards and six touchdowns. He really stepped to the forefront as the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver when Adarius Bowman went down with an injury late in the season. He was outstanding with nine catches for 117 yards and two TDs in OSU's Insight Bowl victory over Indiana.

After his impressive outing against Washington State, Bryant shouldn't be surprised to see opposing defenses start using double coverage in an attempt to slow him down.

"I'm not worried a bit because I know if they were to double me, then they're going to leave somebody open. I feel we have a lot of talent around the perimeter where it's not just me who can make plays; we have Atrell Woods, DeMarcus Conner, Jeremy Broadway, Damian Davis ... they can all make big plays too."

But Gundy – and Bryant's teammates – know that if the Cowboys get the ball into his hands, good things are going to happen.

"The one thing I've always like about Dez, and at times Dez can drive you crazy as a coach, but Dez is fearless," said Gundy. "Dez will go up and get the ball at any time, and he'll go across the middle at any time. That's the one thing you like about a player like that.

"The guys that perform fearless out there on the edge can play for a long time. There's just a few guys that have played fearlessly, even in the NFL. Jerry Rice would come across the middle at any time, (and) he didn't care (who was going to hit him). Up until this point, Dez will still do that and that's why he's a little bit different than the other guys right now."

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