STILLWATER – Justin Blackmon, upon request, quickly pitched his Oklahoma State breakout candidate for wide receiver.
It's the old candidate: Hubert Anyiam.
“I think Hubert's going to have a big year,” said Blackmon, OSU's Mr. Breakout for 2010.
Many eyes were on Anyiam a year ago, as the Cowboys sought the next big thing at wide receiver post-Dez Bryant. Anyiam, after all, had shown the most when Bryant was suspended in 2009, finishing with 42 receptions for 515 yards, while no other Cowboy registered more than 25 catches.
But foot and ankle injuries betrayed Anyiam's development. And of course, Blackmon busted loose, setting records on his way to the Biletnikoff Award. And Josh Cooper came through, too. And Bo Bowling was a surprise contributor.
As for Anyiam, he didn't seem to be Option 1, 2 or 3. He finished tied for ninth on the team with 11 receptions, good for 135 yards and three touchdowns.
And through the spring and summer, wideouts like Mike Harrison, Tracy Moore, and Charlie Moore commanded attention as emerging talents. And they still do, along with true freshman Josh Stewart.
Blackmon, however, is reapplying the buzz on Anyiam, who is healthy, hungry and happy.
“I feel good, better than last season or even last spring,” Anyiam said. “Now I feel like I'm 100 percent. And everyone is wanting to see the Hubert that I was whenever Dez was out and I was in.
“I love being the buzz. It's great. That's my expectations, and I'm going to try to live up to the expectations and help my team win as many games as possible.”
Evidence of Anyiam's ability is there, although only in glimpses.
There was the Texas A&M game the week Bryant was shut down in 2009, when Anyiam caught three passes for 58 yards and a score, a big 27-yard grab for the first score of his career. He totaled 10 catches, 119 yards and a touchdown in a win over Missouri, earning Big 12 Player of the Week honors for his play. He produced a nine-catch, 83-yard day in a victory at Baylor.
“When we lost Dez, he made a ton of plays for us,” said OSU coach Mike Gundy. “We beat A&M on the road, and he makes two big catches. We beat Missouri on the road, and he catches a fourth-down pass right before halftime.”
And Gundy said Anyiam can be that guy again.
“I think he's healthy for the first time in 12-15 months. I think he's kind of back into the groove of being ready to play, both mentally and physically," Gundy said.
The physical and the mental go together for Anyiam.
After his solid sophomore season in 2009, Anyiam tore ligaments in his foot during the spring, requiring surgery. The recovery and rehab kept him sidelined through the summer and slowed him throughout the preseason.
Then when he did come back, he suffered a high ankle sprain, limiting him again. Anyiam said he never felt better than 80 percent healthy the rest of the season. And doubt might have crept in.
“Hubert's one of those guys, for some reason, he doesn't think of himself as good of a player as we think he can be,” said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “He's the kind of guy that when he's feeling good and he believes in himself and you believe in him, he responds to that. And that's all we've tried to do with him.
“We tell him, ‘Hey, do you realize how good of a player you can be? Why don't you play with more confidence? You've got a man's body, you're strong, you're a fun guy to be around. Let's understand that and keep working.'
“And he's done that.”
Not that the pain was only in his head. For players who rely on sticking their feet into the turf to change direction or prepare for a burst of speed, a high ankle sprain is a crippler.
“For a wide receiver, a high ankle sprain can be a very big deal,” Anyiam said. “You're playing receiver, you've got to be able to plant your feet and make cuts according to where the defense is playing you. You've got to read and make last-second cuts. You've got to have your feet and ankles to play receiver.”
Anyiam's wheels are good again, freeing him up to be himself. His good self.
“Hubert Anyiam can be as good as Hubert Anyiam wants to be,” Blackmon said. “He's got a lot of talent. He's extremely fast. I think he's one of the best players on this team, as far as athleticism and body build and strength. He's strong and physical. With that combination, it's very tough to stop.
“Just to see him back in that groove again, bouncing around and moving, feeling comfortable out there – not thinking about his foot or anything – that's good to see.”
The Cowboys are already tough to stop. But if Anyiam can provide a deep threat out wide opposite Blackmon, the offense could only get better.
“Oh, I wouldn't mind at all,” Blackmon said. “It'd take a lot of pressure off me.”
And put more pressure on defenses.
“I had a great summer,” Anyiam said. “I didn't miss any days. I went 100 percent every day. My feet weren't giving me any problems. That's the big thing for me this season, staying 100 percent healthy and being there for my team.
“I don't want to say too much, but I can tell you this, I'm going to give it 100 percent.
Obviously, Blackmon has that target on his head, I plan on other receivers being open and being able to help.”