Replacing the production of Justin Blackmon will be critical for the Cowboys in 2012, which means that was another popular topic during the Cowboys’ turn at Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday in Dallas.
Gundy was not ready to name OSU’s “next” Blackmon, who in 2010 and 2011 won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards for the best wide receiver in college football, or Dez Bryant, who put up more than 1,400 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in an eye-popping 2008 season. Instead, several Cowboys will need to combine to make up those numbers, much like the way running backs Joseph Randle’s and Jeremy Smith’s numbers effectively replaced (surpassed, actually) Kendall Hunter’s production in 2011.
“I’m not sure that I’m ready to commit to one of these guys being a first-round pick,” Gundy said of the Cowboys’ current WR corps. “They’re so far and few between.
“The comparison I would make is years ago we talked about losing Kendall Hunter, and I felt like that Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle as a pair needed to combine and give us what Kendall did, and those guys have been able to do that.
“We want three or four of our receivers this year to give us what Justin Blackmon gave us this past year. That would be our goal is for Wes to be able to develop and delegate the ball to the guys who can make plays.”
Tracy Moore appears the most likely to become OSU’s No. 1 target after moving to Blackmon’s old starting spot on the outside. Really, though, the Cowboys will need bigger contributions from seven or eight receivers, since they also lost Josh Cooper, Hubert Anyiam, Michael Harrison and Colton Chelf.
Isaiah Anderson in 2012 will need to be way more productive than Isaiah Anderson in 2011. Torrance Carr and David Glidden will need to produce more than Colton Chelf and Charlie Moore did last season. The breakout performance we saw from Charlie Moore in the spring finale might need to carry over to the fall (but not to that extreme degree, of course). Randle will need to become even more involved in the passing game. A true freshman or two will be expected to play.
“(Last) year, in really crucial times, everybody knew that Blackmon would get the ball,” Gundy said. ”We don’t have a guy that’s established like Blackmon. In those situations, we’ll have to use other people now. Tracy Moore’s made a lot of plays for us, Isaiah’s made plays for us. We talked about the running backs.
“You talked about the other guys like Josh Cooper last year, who had 74 catches, (who also needs to be replaced). But for the most part, we have quality receivers in our program, and this incoming class that we have with guys that are on campus and will be on campus next week may be as good as we’ve ever had when you look at them on paper. How they develop, it’s our responsibility to get them to that level.”
Of course, Blackmon virtually came out of nowhere to dominate in 2010, so it’s not completely out of the question to think the Cowboys could have a new breakout star at wideout this season. But even if that happens, roles will need to expand for several OSU receivers — and Lunt needs to distribute the ball accordingly — for that spread offense to continue to be successful in 2012.