By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Dating back to his arrival for spring practice, Blake Jackson has had trouble holding onto the ball.
He’s a physical force, unlike any Oklahoma State has featured in the slot since implementing the spread offense. But the bouts of dropped practice passes have translated over to the game.
And what was once a minor concern has become a pressing issue.
In the Arizona loss, when all the receivers were plagued with slippery hands, Jackson was the ringleader, dropping three passes, including one in the end zone.
“He’s not as far along as we’d like, but as far as experience, one thing I’ve learned about this offense is the knowledge and experience you gain in this system is so important,” coach Mike Gundy said. “He’s lacking that right now because of reps and live game experience, so that affects him…That affects his catching.”
More Gundy: “His thinking level is way up here, because he’s trying to figure out where to be all the time. That’s the one downfall of this system. The wideouts have a lot to do and a lot of thinking that has to take place and they have to be in the right place at the right time in order to make things work. And if not, it can show up really quick.”
The coaches can downplay it, and they have, but the issue remains.
Jackson, all 6-foot-3, 235 pounds of him, was blessed with some unteachable physical gifts, but steady hands weren’t one of them. Josh Cooper, he is not.
But with the issues mostly correctable, he’ll continue to get his chances. And why shouldn’t he. Despite the drops, Jackson went for six catches and 105 yards on Saturday, providing Wes Lunt with a big target.
But similar to Calvin Barnett’s penalties and Joseph Randle’s fumbling, Gundy can only put up with so much. An occasional mistake is understandable, a constant trend may warrant a benching.
Here’s offensive coordinator Todd Monken explaining Jackson’s three drops:
“Really, all the balls that Blake Jackson had a shot at were not uncontested. He had one over the middle that was through about two defenders where he didn’t get his head around. That was something we can get corrected. The other one was a wheel route, if Wes really reads it right we should hit the post, and there was a guy there. Should he make the catch? Of course he could. And then in the red zone, score zone area, if Wes just stays in the pocket, he doesn’t have to throw it (behind him). That’s hard for a big guy. That’s hard for a big guy to get his body contorted. Should he catch it? Of course. But after that, he made some really nice catches. And it’s about us getting him in situations where those are the type catches he’s making. I’m not really concerned about it. Our guys are going to have drops, it just happened to be him three times.”