PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Before Justin Blackmon, there was Dez Bryant. Before Dez Bryant, there was Adarius Bowman. Before Adarius Bowman, there was Rashaun Woods.
Three first-round draft picks and Bowman, who coulda been a contender had he stayed on the straight and narrow.
Through two very different head coaches and three distinct offensive styles and four assorted offensive coordinators and five diverse quarterbacks, there's been one constant for Oklahoma State football.
The Cowboys always have a big-time receiver, and Blackmon is among the reasons OSU is Big 12 champ and in the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford on Monday night.
Two questions. 1. What's the secret of OSU's success? 2. Who's next?
The assembly line is established. The Cowboys have convinced us. They're going to have a big-time receiver.
But the next star might have to come from the back of the pack.
OSU loses three seniors and Blackmon, who almost certainly is NFL-bound. Blackmon, Josh Cooper, Hubert Anyiam and Colton Chelf have combined for 508 career catches.
The Cowboys return just 167 career catches from their receiving corps, led by Tracy Moore's 73.
My money's on sophomore Michael Harrison, who through two seasons has just 33 catches but has shown flashes.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken points out that Blackmon had just 20 career catches going into the 2010 season, including four in the preceding Cotton Bowl. Then Blackmon won back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards as the nation's top receiver.
“Hard to know until you really count on 'em,” Monken said. “How guys react when they're that guy.”
Moore and Isaiah Anderson (39 career catches) will be seniors in 2012. Freshman Josh Stewart has 19 catches this season. All have had their moments, jumping out of the shadow cast by Blackmon and Cooper. All could find the spotlight against Stanford.
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