STILLWATER — As a sophomore under Mike Gundy in 2008, Dez Bryant was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the nation's top receiver. Under Dana Holgorsen in 2007, Michael Crabtree set an NCAA record for receptions by a freshman with 134 catches.
Both Oklahoma State coaches see some similarities between the current NFL receivers they coached and Cowboys receiver Justin Blackmon. Gundy pointed to similarities between Blackmon and Bryant in terms of height, weight and strength while Holgorsen drew parallels between Blackmon and Crabtree in terms of work ethic.
While it's way too early to anoint Blackmon as a future NFL first round pick — he's only been dominant in one game after all — he appears to be on a path toward being a special performer in Holgorsen's offense.
"Time will tell," Holgorsen said. "Mike Crabtree did it for two straight years and now he's doing it in the NFL. ... what makes great players is consistency."
Blackmon has been consistent during OSU's preseason camp and he transformed that consistency into production last Saturday with eight catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns in OSU's rout of Washington State.
Blackmon, a redshirt sophomore from Plainview High School in Ardmore, realized he had an opportunity to be a core member of the Cowboys' offense after the Cotton Bowl and, much like quarterback Brandon Weeden, his mindset changed.
"I have a different mindset now," Blackmon said. "I have more responsibilities this year than I did last year so (my change in mindset) came from that."
Blackmon's playmaking mindset is one crucial attribute he seems to share with Bryant and Crabtree. All three receivers want the ball in key situations and all three have shown they can come through in those situations. Everybody says they want the ball in those situations but elite playmakers say it and show it by coming through in key situations.
"That's my mindset, I want the ball in that type of situation," Blackmon said. "You have to make plays and in those situations it's extra important."
Blackmon showed signs of being a clutch player in 2009 and he did the same on Saturday against WSU.
"When they cut the lead to seven, we called his number a couple of times and he made some plays," Gundy said. "That's the kind of guy you're looking for."
But in order to be considered on the same level that Bryant and Crabtree reached in the Big 12, Blackmon will need to produce week in and week out regardless of how the opponent defends him.
"I have a hard time putting him on that level now," Gundy said. "But I'm not saying he can't be that way."
Said Holgorsen: "You can't have a game on then a game off. All indications with Justin are that he's not going to do that because he's gotten better ever since I've been here."
Blackmon took his game to another level in the spring and has continued to raise his level of play this fall.
"He may have had one or two bad days in camp," Holgorsen said. "Other than that he was the same every day. If he can do what he did last week with consistency, he has a chance to be special."
Justin Blackmon finished with 20 catches for 260 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2009. Although those aren't eye-popping numbers, Blackmon showed signs of being a clutch player in the future. Here's a look at some of the high points of the freshman year.
Georgia: Blackmon started his first collegiate game but didn't catch a pass. He is most remembered for taking a personal foul hit by Georgia's Reshad Jones which helped set up OSU's final touchdown.
Houston: Trailing the Cougars 31-28 in the fourth quarter, Blackmon caught a 10-yard pass then an 18-yard pass to set up a 22-yard touchdown connection between Zac Robinson and Josh Cooper to give OSU a 35-31 fourth-quarter lead.
Texas A&M: Trailing the Aggies 22-21 in the third quarter, Blackmon makes a great adjustment on a 32-yard connection with Robinson on third-and-8. Beau Johnson scored on a one-yard run to cap the drive. OSU never trailed from that point forward.
Texas: With OSU down 10-0 in the first quarter but driving down the field, Blackmon makes a 7-yard catch on fourth-and-4 to keep the drive alive.
Colorado: Trailing the Buffs 28-24 in the fourth quarter on national television, Blackmon makes a 28-yard touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone to give OSU a lead they never relinquished.
Justin Blackmon didn't arrive on campus as an prep All-American.
â€œNot many people knew about him but us, Missouri and one other team (Colorado),â€ OSU coach Mike Gundy said. â€œNobody else showed any interest.â€
Blackmon is proving those other schools wrong as a receiver who started his first collegiate game as a freshman and opened his sophomore campaign with a career high eight catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a fourth touchdown on a blocked punt return.
What was it about Blackmon that sparked the Cowboy coaching staff's interest?
â€œBlackmon had great body control and great hands,â€ Gundy said. â€œAnd he had enough speed that we thought being at 210 pounds (207) he could play at this level. If he had been 180 pounds we might not have recruited him.â€
By Brandon Chatmon