STILLWATER — Of all the former starters missing on the 2014 Oklahoma State football roster from a season ago, little has been discussed about the loss of a player with arguably the highest production.
Slot receiver Josh Stewart.
Over the past two seasons, Stewart led the Cowboys in receptions. He finished his three-year career with 2,204 receiving yards and 180 catches, and declared for the NFL draft as a junior following last season.
But Stewart’s name hasn’t been mentioned much, if at all, throughout fall camp. Instead of recalling the past and discussing what could have been had Stewart stayed, the talk has been focused on who is coming back.
And wide receivers coach Jason Ray likes what he sees.
“It's just a number of guys that I could go down on a list who continue to get better,” Ray said. “From a separation standpoint, I think everybody has been pretty steady and has steadily been getting better. We look at it as a group effort and a group unit getting better, and I think they've all made progress in that way.”
Justin Blackmon’s two Biletnikoff Awards and Dez Bryant’s highlight-reel NFL catches have served as a pretty handy recruiting tool. OSU has grabbed highly regarded receiving prospects in Oklahoma, Texas, Georgia and Missouri over the past few seasons.
“I watched Oklahoma State play Texas A&M when Blackmon was there,” wide receiver Ra’Shaad Samples, of Dallas, said. “That was probably one of the most amazing games I’ve seen. After that, I watched closely, every single Oklahoma State game.”
The Cowboys figure to have a No. 1 option in Jhajuan Seales. The sophomore started every regular-season game last season and hauled in 571 yards and 39 receptions. The Cowboys also return David Glidden, a 5-foot-7, 188-pound slot receiver who brings experience to the position left vacant by Stewart.
Behind those two Cowboys is a laundry list of players who will likely compete for snaps all season long. Marcel Ateman and Brandon Shepard were contributors last year. Austin Hays missed most of 2013 with an injury, but also brings some experience. Samples, a redshirt freshman, figures to be in the mix as well.
Junior-college transfer Tyreek Hill will likely also see snaps at slot receiver, despite practicing mostly with the running backs through fall camp.
Then there’s the question of what to do with standout freshman wide receiver James Washington. Coaches have said Washington consistently makes incredibly athletic catches. But with a deep receiving corps, he might benefit from a redshirt year.
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