Despite no star, OSU receivers still a test

AUSTIN, Texas -- Justin Blackmon isn’t walking through that door. Dez Bryant isn’t walking through that door. But that doesn’t mean Oklahoma State’s receiving corps is lacking the kind of talent necessary to test Texas’ touted secondary.

After a week of evaluating what the Cowboys' passing attack has to offer in the face of losing Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden, Texas secondary coach Duane Akina sees plenty of challenges.

“There’s not a Dez or a Blackmon, but the staff has done a great job, I think, of utilizing their weapons and their running backs,” Akina said. “It’s still a well-conceived system. Without Dez or Blackmon, it has not hurt their offensive numbers.”

The Cowboys’ top two wideouts this season are inside receivers. Blake Jackson, a junior college transfer, leads the team with 217 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, he provides some matchup challenges.

Then there’s the receiver who will likely be J.W. Walsh’s favorite target. Josh Stewart, Walsh’s go-to receiver during their high school days at Denton (Texas) Guyer, leads OSU in receptions with 19, good for 208 yards and two scores.

And don't forget the big guy on the outside who takes Blackmon’s place, Tracy Moore. The senior has 1,195 career receiving yards and 12 career touchdowns.

Unlike years past, this Oklahoma State offense isn’t structured around any one star receiver. In fact, through three games, 10 Cowboys are averaging more than 10 yards per catch.

“It’s another game that will challenge the secondary’s eyes and to make sure we keep the chunks off the field,” Akina said.

The key to slowing down this OSU offense isn’t necessarily to stop Jackson or Stewart. Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz knows it’s not the inside receivers who keep the offense rolling. It’s more that the ball can be thrown to anyone.

“Their system, it’s like watching water run down a window,” Diaz said. “Where you are is where the ball goes the opposite. Arizona, they played one certain type of coverage and this guy gets all the catches. Lafayette, they play a different coverage and now the ball comes over there.

“That’s just been their deal: The ball goes where you’re not.”

Does that require Diaz to schematically throw the proverbial kitchen sink at OSU on Saturday? Not exactly. He’s sensitive to overdoing it when adding new wrinkles for Texas’ first conference test.

“You do whatever it takes to win. If you hold something back, now all the sudden you’re experimenting with it for the first time against an offense that leads the nation in offense,” he said. “The game will be won by them doing what they do best versus us doing what we do best.”

There’s no mistaking what the Cowboys do best: They lead the Big 12 in scoring offense, total offense, passing offense and red zone scoring.

This year, though, more than one receiver is responsible for the damage.