Fresh faces for No. 19 Cowboys in passing game
Todd Monken never believed Charlie Moore or Isaiah Anderson would become impact players at Oklahoma State. He certainly didn't expect them to be two major reasons the No. 19 Cowboys are confident they'll be able to keep their passing game clicking along after losing first-round NFL draft picks Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden.
In Monken's eyes as the offensive coordinator, Moore was a converted quarterback whose running style was too stiff to translate to playing receiver at college football's highest level. And Anderson was ''just a fast little dude that ran scared and didn't catch the ball,'' Monken said.
But not anymore.
The Cowboys are counting on Moore and Anderson to help fill major voids left in the passing offense that ranked second in the nation a year ago and attempted more throws than all but three other Bowl Subdivision schools.
Gone are Weeden, the school's all-time passing leader and now the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, and Blackmon, a two-time All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top college receiver.
As if that weren't enough, Oklahoma State also lost second-leading receiver Josh Cooper, seniors Hubert Anyiam and Colton Chelf plus Michael Harrison. Add in a handful of receptions from bit players and the Cowboys are without the guys responsible for 264 catches and 3,158 yards from last season.
That's more production than about half of the nation's teams had as a whole last season.
''We lost obviously some huge players but expectations stay the same. We're a unit, the coaches have rebuilt us and they have a lot of confidence in us,'' Moore said Thursday. ''All these reps we're taking and all this practice, I think we're going to continue doing what we do.''
Blackmon alone caught 122 passes for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns. Cooper chipped in 715 yards on 71 receptions, with three scores. With them gone, it means more chances for the guys who are left.
''It's different in all sorts of ways,'' Moore said. ''You don't have those guys in the locker room. I miss those guys in the locker room. But as for on the field, you realize it's time for us to step up and they're not here. It's a growing process. It's something you see every day.''
Monken, who took over the offense before last season, never saw this coming.
Moore had a breakout performance in the spring game, catching nine passes for 243 yards and three long touchdowns from 39, 58 and 59 yards out. Anderson has drawn perhaps more praise than any offensive player during training camp, and Monken knew he'd developed into more than just a speedster when his helmet got ripped off on a catch and he popped right back up.
''That's why you never, ever, ever stop developing guys in your offense. I would have never guessed ... that they would be playing the way they're playing now,'' Monken said. ''And I'm being critical of me. I'm the one going, `Pfft, there's no way.' And you know what? I'm dead wrong.''
Tracy Moore is the most proven of Oklahoma State's receivers after he caught 45 passes for 672 yards and four touchdowns last season. Anderson, Josh Stewart and junior college transfer Blake Jackson are listed as the other starters at receiver heading into the season opener Sept. 1 against Savannah State.
None of them are household names at this point, but neither was Blackmon two years ago when the Cowboys were trying to figure out who would fill first-round pick Dez Bryant's shoes.
''When they don't know about us, it never really fazes me. That's not something I really think about,'' said Charlie Moore, who caught three passes last season and is currently Anderson's backup.
''It's almost kind of a good thing to go into a game knowing that. Just go out and have fun and all that stuff will take care of itself.''
Even coach Mike Gundy suggested that it might be running back Joseph Randle, and not a receiver, who catches the most passes on the team this season. Monken said he doesn't know or care who will be the most productive, as long as the wins keep coming.
''It's different just because they're not out there,'' Stewart said. ''But we've got new receivers and we're moving on now, they're moving on now. We're excited for our next receiving crew.''