Oklahoma State’s passing game was one of the best in the nation last year, and its current group of receivers might help that aerial attack hit another level this season.
The Cowboys boast the best group of receivers in the conference heading into 2017. A quick head count includes the No. 1 returning wideout in the Big 12, James Washington, as well as three more wideouts who could be No. 1 receivers on other teams in the conference. It’s a stacked group that will surely give Mason Rudolph all the options he could ever want.
Washington is the well-known commodity of the group. He had 1,380 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season while averaging 19.4 yards per catch in 2016. His speed, as well as his chemistry with Mason Rudolph on downfield throws, make him one of the most dangerous weapons in college football.
Washington turned down a shot at the 2017 NFL Draft in favor of one more run with the Cowboys. Another great season could see him drafted as high as former Oklahoma State standouts such as Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon.
Behind Washington is Jalen McCleskey, who had 7 touchdowns and 812 yards in 2016. He’s not as explosive as Washington, averaging just 11.1 yards per catch in 2016, but he’s consistent. He had eight games with at least 5 catches last season, and nine games with at least 50 receiving yards.
And then there’s Marcell Ateman, who returns from a foot injury that kept him off the field for most of last season. The last time he played a full season, he had 766 yards and 5 touchdowns as Oklahoma State’s third option. He might be able to eclipse those numbers with opposing defenses worrying about Washington and McCleskey.
With all the attention those three draw, fans may not even think about the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Chris Lacy. So, here’s a little reminder of what a pain his size can be for opposing secondaries as he drags TCU safety Niko Small for almost 15 yards after contact.
Any one of these receivers could go off at any time. Every one of them has at least two 100-yard games in his career, a number they will all surely add to in 2017. If that’s not enough, the Cowboys also have LSU transfer receiver Tyron Johnson. The former 5-star recruit is now eligible after sitting out last season.
No one else in the conference boasts that sort of depth at receiver. Oklahoma lost Dede Westbrook, and their best returning pass-catcher is tight end Mark Andrews, who had 489 yards last season. Texas Tech’s Jonathan Giles, West Virginia’s Shelton Gibson and Baylor’s K.D. Cannon are all gone. So, most of the league will be looking for new No. 1 receivers in 2017.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has multiple No. 1 targets, including the best receiver in the league. Rudolph has his pick of weapons in the passing game, each with unique strengths. The Cowboys should have no problem throwing the ball this season. But what else is new?