STILLWATER – Isaiah Anderson longed for opportunity at Oklahoma State, laboring along into his junior year in an all-too-familiar backup role.
An injury to Hubert Anyiam wasn't what he wished for, and yet, Anderson was needed. And he responded, more than doubling his career reception total with 28 catches for 315 yards and four touchdowns.
Now, with the Cowboys seeking difference makers at wide receiver, Anderson recognizes greater opportunity – and opportunity to shine.
“I feel like it's going to be a good year,” Anderson said, revealing a signature broad smile.
Gone is Justin Blackmon and his reliable big-play ability. Gone, too: Josh Cooper, Colton Chelf, Michael Harrison and Anyiam.
No one figures to truly replace Blackmon, the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner. Still, someone must step into his slot. And someone must stretch the field.
That's when Anderson raises his hand high.
“Throw it my way deep anytime you need,” Anderson said. “If it's a big play you need, I'm that guy.”
One of the fastest Cowboys – Anderson ran for the OSU track team in 2009 and was clocked at 4.39 in the 40 that spring – he produced receptions of 18 yards or longer in seven games.
This spring, he's focusing on becoming a more complete receiver.
That's what opportunity can do.
“Isaiah's really embraced it, too,” said Kasey Dunn, OSU's outside receivers coach. “He's gotten better. He's working his tail off, working on becoming a great route runner. That's what he needs to be, a great route runner. He's not Blackmon. He's not going to just go out there and pound into guys, roll into spots and catch the ball and be athletic. That's not him.
“He's got to go out there and be precise with his routes and his footwork. And he comes out and he works hard on it.”
Better routes, combined with his speed, will help him in traffic. At 5-foot-10 and just 168 pounds, Anderson can't rely on getting physical with defensive backs.
“If he can stay moving, that's a good thing for him,” Dunn said, “because there aren't a lot of people who can run with him. He's got some real explosive speed.”
A rising senior out of Wichita Falls, Texas, Anderson is also working on improving his hands. Even outside of practice, he's working, catching tennis balls fired from a baseball pitching machine.
“He's pounding it,” Dunn said. “Isaiah's better than he was last year, by far. I think he's due for a good year.”
For Anderson, he no longer has to wait and hope for his opportunity.
He just has to capitalize on it.
“I feel like personally, I've had a good spring,” Anderson said. “I'm preparing every day, working on the things I need to make myself better and to do whatever it takes to help the team next season.
“I learned that anything can happen and you have to take advantage of every opportunity you have. Last year I thought I took advantage of it. This year, I'm going to do the same thing.
“Going into your senior season, you can't ask for a better thing than to be starting and to be on a team that's rolling the way we are.”