With that in mind, and our determination to bring a fresh approach to an age old preseason football magazine chore of previewing a team position by position, we are going to preview the 2009 Cowboys by presenting two scenarios at each position. There will be the best-case scenario in which the team deals with no injuries and no drop-off in production from last season at each position, and what that position can contribute to the season. Then we will follow the best case scenario with what we call the fire-drill scenario. This will present potential catastrophic problems and what can be done and which players could step up to keep the team going and the excitement from the preseason prognostications of an epic campaign alive.
Obviously, we are rooting for the best case scenario but head coach Mike Gundy will be the first one to tell you that in the course of a college football season – especially one where a team plays a schedule with six likely opponents in the Top 25, seven teams that went to bowl games in 2008, and the ultra-rugged Big 12 South – there are always pitfalls and adversity, most in the form of injuries. You have to have a team that is ready to execute a fire drill and get it right.
1-Dez Bryant, 6-2, 215, Jr., Lufkin, Texas
84-Hubert Anyiam, 6-1, 193, So., Garland (North Garland), Texas
15-Adrian Richards, 6-4, 195, R-Fr., Mesquite, Texas
7-Michael Harrison, 6-2, 190, Fr., Dallas (Hillcrest), Texas
25-Josh Cooper, 5-11, 185, So., Mustang, Okla.
81-Justin Blackmon, 6-1, 189, R-Fr., Ardmore (Plainview), Okla.
31-Colton Chelf, 5-10, 180, Jr., Enid, Okla./NEO A&M J.C., Okla.
87-Tracy Moore, 6-3, 225, Fr., Tulsa (Union), Okla.
80-DeMarcus Conner, 6-1, 206, Sr., Spring (Westfield), Texas
82-Isaiah Anderson, 5-10, 159, R-Fr., Wichita Falls, Texas
19-Anthony Hill, 6-0, 195, Jr., Kansas City, Mo./Coffeyville C.C., Kan.
10-Charlie Moore, 6-2, 200, Fr., Bullard, Texas
Can you have too much Dez Bryant? There are, believe it or not, some fans that believe that is so. Don't count me among them. You have to think of Bryant as the Barry Sanders or Thurman Thomas of wide receivers. Bryant averaged 17.0 yards every time he caught a pass. He averaged 17.9 yards every time he caught a punt. Finally, Bryant averaged 25 yards every time he fielded a kickoff. Of those touches, what do you not like? Bryant is a workhorse of a wide receiver. Now it becomes very easy to see what would cause a fire-drill scenario at wide receiver.
Best Case: Bryant stays healthy, happy and wise (he was a Big 12 All-Academic selection). His numbers are out of this world and because of that his presence on the field draws plenty of attention from opposing defenses allowing other receivers and the running attack plenty of room and freedom to operate. They in turn give Dez the opportunity to make more big plays. A healthy Dez Bryant is a must for Oklahoma State to have the chance to live up to its preseason top-10 ranking and have a chance to win championships in the Big 12 South, the Big 12, and BCS.
If something happened to the explosive 6-2, 215-pound playmaker the Cowboys could still have a winning season and go to a good bowl game, but they could not reach the highest highs. In the best case scenario not only does Bryant do his thing, but the continued development of young receiver and future playmaker Justin Blackmon continues and veterans DeMarcus Conner, Hubert Anyiam, and Josh Cooper contribute. The more the merrier at wide receiver, as long as Dez is part of it. According to the head coach there is a process for the young wide receivers.
"We have a system on offense that there are young players that have to step in and play," explained Gundy. "For the young players it doesn't mean they have to be a lead role. They just have to understand their role. You can use Dez as an example. As great a player as Dez is, his first year he didn't play a lead role. He made plays as the season progressed. Early in the season he was getting one, two, three catches again and going downfield to block. We asked him to understand the system, and these guys we expect them to understand the system and get ready to play. We expect them to get better and play next fall.
"Isaiah (Anderson) is not as big as the other two, but he is fast," said Gundy while discussing the redshirt freshman wide receivers. "Speed should be his strength and the ability to take the top off of a coverage. Justin is a 205- to 210-pounder. He gives us some size at that inside receiver spot when we put him there. Adrian is a tall guy that runs really fast and has height and reach. All three of them have really great attitudes. There is a considerable amount of learning that has to take place this spring, and they all have to have great summers on their own learning the offense."
At the slot, Cooper, who has still not played as much as the coaches would like, is important. "Cooper is a little further along," added Gundy. "He's played some and he traveled last year and we expect him to understand what to do today. Josh needs to understand what to do today and those other three have to work hard and remember what they learned in spring, have a great summer, and then know what to do in August."
Fire Drill: The fire drill occurs if something happens to Bryant. His presence is so liberating for every other offensive player that if he goes down the offense tightens up dramatically. Conner is a great blocker that has improved his receiving abilities. Anyiam showed flashes of his potential but needs to be more consistent and eliminate drops and stay on his feet. Cooper needs to stay healthy.
All of that is well and good, but if Bryant goes down there is one player that could emerge to pick up a lot of the slack. Blackmon is young, just a redshirt freshman, but he is explosive and has shown signs of being the next fantastic playmaker at wide receiver.
"As far as receivers, Blackmon is the one that has stood out and made more plays in the spring of the young receivers," said co-offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer. "He got more reps than the other guys and that lends itself for him to be more productive."
The freshman group of Michael Harrison, Charlie Moore and Tracy Moore all have ability but the preference would be to throw a redshirt over that trio much like the Cowboys were able to do last season with Blackmon, Anderson and Richards.