STILLWATER — Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken does not want Cowboy fans to fret.
The fact that the Pokes have one tight end signee (junior college transfer Blake Jackson) and one tight end commit (Broken Arrow's Zac Veatch) in the 2012 recruiting class does not mean the offense is changing from the up-tempo, spread attack that has helped OSU compile a 23-3 record over the past two seasons.
With Jackson, it means the Cowboys are about to utilize a bigger weapon — literally — in role that has been filled by wide receivers in recent years.
Jackson sports a 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame. His coach at Scottsdale Community College, Doug Madoski, consistently marveled at Jackson's ability to control his body in midair and catch any ball in his general vicinity. He was a first-team NJCAA All-American this past season and fits the mold of pass-catching tight ends like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez.
“He's not a 265-pound guy that's going to go out and block a defensive end,” Madoski said. “Blake's much more of a receiving threat, which I think fits much better in Oklahoma State's offense than he would in a lot offenses. It's that whole wide-open attack.”
Jackson is used to being heavily involved in the passing game, because it's what he's always known. He was a wide receiver at Gilbert (Ariz.) High School but did not put up big stats in its run-first offense.
SCC recruited Jackson as a wide receiver, but his frame started to fill out once he arrived at the school. That prompted Madoski to move Jackson to tight end, where he could combine his size, receiving skills and athleticism to create matchup problems with the opposing defense.
Jackson flourished, catching 95 passes for 1,474 yards and 25 touchdowns in two seasons.
When Monken and OSU wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn began recruiting Jackson, they pitched a similar role for him in Stillwater. They told him he would not be asked to gain a pound. That he would be used much like OSU inside receiver Tracy Moore was this past season — a big target that can find holes in a zone defense, break tackles and make explosive plays.
That, combined with the opportunity to play for a surging program, led Jackson to sign with OSU over schools like Oklahoma, Georgia, Miami and Arkansas.
OSU has had its share of stout tight ends in the recent past. Brandon Pettigrew was an All-Big 12 first-teamer in 2007 before being drafted in the first round by the Detroit Lions in 2009. In 2003, Billy Bajema was a second-team All-Big 12 selection.
But since Dana Holgorsen arrived as offensive coordinator in 2010, the Cowboys have significantly minimized their use of the position. Cooper Bassett moved from tight end to defensive end in 2010. Wilson Youman played both tight end and defensive end this past season, but was used almost exclusively on defense the second half of the year.
The same could happen with Veatch, a block-first tight end who said last week that he will begin his OSU career at that position but could eventually move to defense, depending on his progress.
Jackson is a different breed, though. He is expected to become a versatile threat in OSU's pass-happy offense — not unlike the some of the NFL stars playing in conference championship games on Sunday.
“One of the selling points (when recruiting Jackson) was, ‘Watch the games, what some of these teams are going to,'” Monken said. “The (Rob) Gronkowskis. The (Aaron) Hernandezes. The Vernon Davises. Those guys are solid blockers, but they're such a weapon (in the passing game).”
Berry Tramel contributed to this report.