Among all Oklahoma State preseason storylines, who had, “What To Do With James Washington?”
No player, Tyreek Hill included, has created more camp buzz than Washington.
Hill has been everything advertised, maybe more, confirming his speed and skills and answering any possible questions about his toughness and durability as a running back/receiver threat. But anticipation surrounding Hill’s game-changer potential spiked the excitement meter long ago.
Washington, however, a true freshman receiver, ranked as somewhat of a sleeper in OSU’s latest recruiting class as a three-star prospect out of tiny Stamford, Texas, in West Texas.
He’s a sleeper no more.
As teammates and coaches rave about Washington and his almost daily practice exploits, the possibility of Washington becoming a factor – even at the Cowboys’ deepest position – gains steam.
At Stamford High, Washington caught 73 passes for 1,331 yards and 24 touchdowns in leading his team to a second straight Class 1A state championship, while also starring at basketball and track and winning a state title on the tennis court.
“Ultra-talented kid,” said OSU receivers coach Kasey Dunn. “Really talented. Still raw, but he has a great, great athletic gene, I guess you’d call it, because he’s down the field fast. He has great leaping ability, very springy. Soft hands.
“Sometimes guys come in and you have to teach them how to catch the ball a little bit. James is very, very fluid. He does everything fluidly. He does everything right fundamentally.”
So Washington presents a bit of a dilemma for Cowboys coaches.
Talent at the receiver positions runs deep, with Jhajuan Seales, Brandon Sheperd, Marcell Ateman, C.J. Curry, David Glidden, Austin Hays, Blake Webb, Ra’Shaad Samples, perhaps Hill, and more.
So for Washington to factor in, he can’t just figure to fit in, he needs to figure to flourish.
So, which is it?
“Hard to say,” Dunn said. “I think we’re fairly deep, you don’t want to burn a redshirt year unless he’s going to really make an impact. I’m just not sure yet.”
Dunn said a closer look at Saturday’s scrimmage video would be telling, not just for Washington’s highlights, but for his busts, too. Then he’ll be watched to see how well he implements the corrections through the next full scrimmage this Saturday.
So far, Dunn said, Washington’s responses have been spot on.
“He’s one of those kids who’s just eager to learn, comes to work every day and it’s, ‘Yes sir, no sir,’” Dunn said. “A real pleasure to coach.
“He’s going to have a great future here, no doubt.”
It’s just a matter of whether that future is now… or not.
Interestingly, a walk-on could aid the decision. Kameron Doolittle, a former Edmond Memorial star and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College product has also impressed, pushing his way into a contributing role.
“So if a guy like Doolittle gets on the bus for us and can make plays at receiver, also makes plays in special teams,” Dunn said, “that allows us an opportunity to redshirt the younger guys, the Chris Lacys and the James Washingtons and Keenen Browns.”
Still, there’s a sense that it’ll be difficult to wait on Washington.
Not with the buzz building.
“He has a chance,” Dunn said. “He’s on the fence.”