New receivers stepping up for No. 24 Oklahoma State
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — After No. 24 Oklahoma State lost multiple senior receivers, most observers didn’t think much of the Cowboys’ group of inexperienced wideouts this year, but Tylan Wallace and Tyron Johnson, among others, have proven to be almost as dynamic as their predecessors so far.
Though James Washington and Marcell Ateman may be on NFL rosters now, the Cowboys (2-0) still seem to be in pretty good shape, despite the fact that Wallace, a sophomore, entered the season with just seven career receptions, and Johnson, a redshirt junior, had totaled 27.
Both had career-high days in Saturday’s 55-13 victory over South Alabama. Wallace amassed 10 receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown, while Johnson hauled in five passes for 137 yards.
“It felt pretty good,” said Wallace, who had four receptions for 48 yards and his first career touchdown in OSU’s season-opening 58-17 win over Missouri State on Aug. 30. “I feel like everybody thinks that since James and Marcell and them left, we weren’t going to be as effective, and I feel like today, we proved them wrong.”
Both players made multiple catches where they went up for a contested ball and came down with it, in much the same way that Washington and Ateman did. Coach Mike Gundy credited receivers coach Kasey Dunn with helping develop those skills.
“Dunn does a great job in practice of putting them in that situation over and over and over and over, all the time,” Gundy said. “I worry about him running them too much, but he says if they’re going to make plays in a game, then we have to do all the time it in practice, and they work it a lot. They just kind of get force-fed and they just work it out.”
Gundy also praised the selfless attitude of the entire receiving corps, which tends to see different players having big games each week, depending on the opponent’s defensive alignment. For example, the lone senior in the position group, Jalen McCleskey, led the Cowboys with six receptions for 66 yards against Missouri State but had just two catches for 11 yards against South Alabama.
“They’re doing a good job, they’re working hard, they’re unselfish — that’s the most difficult thing for our offense, as I’ve said before,” Gundy said. “You’ve got one person that gets to touch the ball every play and you have 10 guys that have to be unselfish and are willing to help him score. And we had that. (Johnson) didn’t have a lot of action a week ago and then he did in this game. And (McCleskey) didn’t get much action in this game based on what happened, (Dillon Stoner, who had four receptions for 54 yards) was somewhat limited. (South Alabama) played differently, so it went outside, (Wallace) ends up getting a lot of action. It’s going to be that way, based on how teams play us.
“I like where they’re coming, I like how they’re sharing time, I like how they’re blocking downfield. They’re making some strides.”
Wallace and Johnson helped establish solid chemistry with new starting quarterback Taylor Cornelius in practice over the course of last season, when all three were little-used backups. That connection has carried over to this season.
“All that practicing last year and everything we’ve been doing this year, I feel like our chemistry has gotten a lot better than it used to be, so I feel like that was also a big part of how we played,” Wallace said.
“Working with Taylor last year benefited me in a great way,” added Johnson, who totaled 18 receptions for 293 yards and three touchdowns last season but had just two catches for 13 yards against Missouri State. “Because he was going to be the guy this year, that was something the coaches told us, ‘Build that communication in practice.’ Practice is where that starts, so we try to get that timing down in practice, that communication, and build the bond.”
Oklahoma State hosts No. 17 Boise State (2-0) this week.