STILLWATER — While the Wes Lunt intrigue dominates this Oklahoma State preseason, his transition to following Brandon Weeden is hardly the only offensive storyline commanding attention.
Another equally pressing issue: How do the Cowboys replace Justin Blackmon's staggering production as a two-time Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver?
The hopeful answer comes in OSU's known commodities.
But also the unknown.
Tracy Moore, Isaiah Anderson, Josh Stewart and Charlie Moore offer familiarity and some level of comfort. But the Cowboys are also counting on as many as six newcomers to pitch in and help keep OSU's spread offense humming.
“When you say you lose Blackmon, you've lost the best receiver in the nation the past two years,” said Charlie Moore, whose big spring game performance may hint at a 2012 breakout. “You can't replace that.
“But as an offense … I think this offense has reloaded pretty well. We'll see when the season starts. But I'm excited.”
And coaches are excited, to an extent.
There's confidence in the veterans, who are all gathering praise for their best work as Cowboys. But in an up-tempo offense that averaged more than 75 plays per game a year ago, two full sets of receivers are necessary, with some seven or eight needed to produce.
Even behind Blackmon and his 122 catches last fall, seven wideouts and slot receivers caught at least 19 balls.
For now, the Cowboys have their four receivers who produced a year ago, including Charlie Moore, who totaled just three receptions.
And they have a cast of newbies.
Seemingly talented newbies — guys who already look the part and who have consistently made plays in practices. Yet unproven newbies just the same, thrust into the fray and asked to contribute immediately.
Some, like true freshmen Brandon Sheperd, C.J. Curry and Blake Webb and junior-college transfer Blake Jackson, come with touted recruiting credentials. And then there's Jhajuan Seales and Austin Hays, seen as late gambles, even reaches, although each has jumped right into the mix and held his own.
Redshirt freshmen David Glidden and Torrance Carr should eventually help, yet have been so far slowed by injuries.
“I like our talent there,” said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “But no one likes to stare out there and you've got Charlie Moore, Tracy Moore, Stewy and Ike — and they're all better than they were last year, thank goodness — and then you've got all new guys. I mean, every guy's new.
“When you've got to play those young guys, they're going to make the flash plays, but it's not always about the big plays, it's about eliminating the bad ones that stop you from scoring and turnovers and all those things that turn into bad football.”
It's not an enviable position, one created when personnel losses left the sophomore and junior classes nearly void of candidates at receiver.
But it's the position the Cowboys find themselves in. And fortunately for them, there's a sense among the offensive coaches that they hit on every receiver in the class. Even Cowboys quarterback Justin Gilbert gave the rookie group of receivers high marks.
“I see a lot of potential,” Gilbert said. “I see some areas they can improve on, but they're making some good plays out here and I can see them playing on Saturdays for us.”
Jackson, a former tight end, is already running with the first unit as an inside receiver. The others have all spent considerable time working the second team, even filling all four spots together at times.
“They're all talented guys,” Monken said. “They're all capable of playing athletically.”
Mentally, as far as understanding routes and recognizing coverages, is the bigger issue.
“It will come down to who is smart enough to play and who picks it up the quickest,” said wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn.