Oklahoma State football: Josh Stewart has become the Cowboys' go-to man at receiver
Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper are in the NFL. Tracy Moore is hurt. That leaves Stewart as one of OSU's more experienced receivers.
STILLWATER — Josh Stewart smiles and chuckles when thinking back to a freshman season that already feels like long ago.
“I would make a good catch, and then I would bust something,” Stewart recalled. “Because my mind was just running.”
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Stewart's up-and-down 2011 season was the typical road for a first-year player. The Oklahoma State slot receiver showed flashes of playmaking ability, but he did not yet grasp the Cowboy offense enough to see a large bulk of playing time. And he didn't need to be a constant contributor, with a veteran group of pass-catchers in front of him, including Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Cooper at the same position.
But with several injuries to the 2012 corps, most notably to Tracy Moore, the sophomore Stewart has suddenly become OSU's most experienced receiver, and perhaps the closest thing Wes Lunt has to a go-to target as the No. 24 Cowboys prepare to face No. 2 Kansas State in Manhattan on Saturday night.
Stewart isn't feeling any additional pressure, however.
“We've really got receivers everywhere that can easily pop out at any time,” Stewart said. “We all just work hard. We've all got to step up, as a group. The ball might not go to me as much this game. It might go to Charlie (Moore). We never know.
“Whoever it goes to, we just know we've got to make plays and step up.”
Stewart is right in that Lunt still has viable options. Senior speedster Isaiah Anderson is back after missing the Iowa State game with a finger injury but was clearly limited against TCU. Charlie Moore has come on after a slow start, with a touchdown grab in three consecutive games. Blake Jackson has had some standout moments. But the two-deep also features a lot of youth and inexperience, with true freshman Austin Hays now in a starting role, and walk-on John Goodlett and true freshman Blake Webb in backup spots.
Of all of those players, though, Stewart has been the most consistent.
He leads the Cowboys with 48 catches, 574 yards and three touchdowns. He ranks fourth in the Big 12 and 18th in the nation with more than seven catches per game.
The key to Stewart's expanded role in the Cowboy offense is his versatility and athleticism. He'll get the ball on the underneath and intermediate routes in the slot and on bubble screens and reverses on the outside. He'll occasionally run a deep route, but he's often the guy in motion before the snap, trying to get in the best position to make a play in the open field.