The number 81 will forever be burned in our memory.
However there could more than one name associated with that jersey.
Despite the losses of Josh Stewart and Tracy and Charlie Moore, Jhajuan Seales headlines a group of young wide receivers that could quickly overshadow the accomplishments of those three.
It is actually remarkable that a position group dominated by sophmores could be seen as a strength of the team, but when you look at the names on the depth chart you see players not only with significant game experience, but who have also made meaningful contributions in production:
|33||Schroeder, Christian||WR||5-11||180||SR||Grapevine, TX/Grapevine|
|29||Gravelle, Cameron||WR||6-0||185||SR||Austin, TX/Anderson|
|38||Doolittle, Kameron||WR||5-8||190||SR||Edmond, OK/Memorial/NEO A&M JC|
|7||Sheperd, Brandon||WR||6-1||195||JR||St. Louis, MO/Parkway Central|
|88||Nault, Logan||WR||6-0||180||JR||Kingfisher, OK/Kingfisher|
|36||Miller, Nate||WR||5-10||185||JR||Lawton, OK/MacArthur|
|47||Jarwin, Blake||WR||6-5||235||JR||Tuttle, OK/Tuttle|
|28||Hunter, Cameron||WR||5-6||173||JR||Denton, TX/Guyer/Air Force|
|24||Hill, Tyreek||WR||5-10||185||JR||Pearson, GA/Coffee/Garden City CC|
|32||Gonzales, Chazten||WR||6-0||184||JR||Del City, OK/Del City|
|13||Glidden, David||WR||5-7||185||JR||Mustang, OK/Mustang|
|83||Fagan, Brendan||WR||6-2||190||JR||Flower Mound, TX/Marcus|
|3||Ateman, Marcell||WR||6-4||190||SO||Dallas, TX/Wylie East|
|84||Hays, Austin||WR||6-2||185||SO||San Antonio, TX/Ronald Reagan|
|85||Webb, Blake||WR||5-11||190||SO||The Woodlands, TX/The Woodlands|
|81||Seales, Jhajuan||WR||6-2||185||SO||Port Arthur, TX/Memorial|
|8||Curry, C.J.||WR||6-2||205||SO||Flowery Branch, GA/Flowery Branch|
|1||Samples, Ra'Shaad||WR||5-11||170||RS FR||Dallas, TX/Skyline|
|80||Colston-Green, Jaren||WR||6-2||170||RS FR||Tallahassee, FL/Leon|
Most of those players, however, have excelled on the outside. Stewart worked inside, and his production was critical to the Cowboys offensive success over the past two seasons. David Glidden has performed well, but has yet to show the ability to carry a game as Stewart could.
Enter JUCO transfer Tyreek Hill and redshirt freshman Ra'Shaad Samples.
Speed will not be an issue at inside receiver. Samples famously raced Justin Gilbert (and lost).
Welp me and @10justscored just solved our issue...and of course yu know who won the race— Justin Gilbert (@JGil_4) June 13, 2013
Hill is a world class sprinter recently named Big 12's Indoor T&F FOY. You've heard people talk about special athletes, and Gundy has spoken that way about Hill. Outside of QB, Tyreek is definitely the most highly anticipated recruit in some time.
A lot could happen between the spring and fall, but right now, if the Cowboys were to go four wide, on talent alone I would expect to see Seales, Hill, Samples, and Ateman. Samples is a question mark as we haven't heard about him from Gundy so far this spring. Ateman is a question mark because we HAVE heard from Gundy about him...
"...when he decides to play hard, he’s a big, physical body; and mentally he has to come around and understand the important of practicing hard every day."
We know how Gundy is about work habits and practice...Blackmon was known for going at it as hard in practice as he would in a game...so if Ateman stays on his radar in this regard, expect Hays and Webb to push him for time. C.J. Curry is another youngster that came in with much acclaim and has the size to work outside, but we have yet to hear anything about his progress.
Regardless, a lot of guys are going to have the opportunity for playing time, and they are all talented. Given the nature of OSU's offense, Gundy has spoken often about rotating in at least 8-9 wide receivers. While the injury bug could bite, much like the QB issues the Cowboys had in 2012, this position could withstand a couple of significant bumps and bruises and be just fine (knock on wood). I've said this before, that this position group is capable of fielding two rotations of players who could start in the Big 12.
Seales, Ateman, Glidden, and Brandon Sheperd played in all 13 games last season. Seales was 3rd in receptions, yards, and yards per game. Among receivers who averaged at least 1 reception per game, Sheperd and Seales were #1 and #2 in yards per catch. Even still, there will be lots of room for someone to drastically increase their production. The Cowboys return the following WR numbers from 2013:
-41.8% of WR receptions (104/249)
-39% of WR yards (1,287/3,326)
-23.8% of WR touchdowns (5/21)
While there is room for players to step up, there is also the need for someone to establish themselves as the "go to" guy, like Blackmon or Bryant. Also, overall production from the wide receivers needs to improve, as OSU has seen a decline each year since the absurdity that was 2011:
Interestingly enough, the Cowboys have averaged more ypc over the past two years, but the drop in TD's is really significant. A big part of the overall decline in 2013 was QB struggles, as Chelf/Walsh completed only 57.6% of their passes. That number was 62.9% in 2012, and we won't talk about Weeden's completion rate. Obviously 2011's TD production had a lot to do with the Weeden2Blackmon fade route that OSU has not been able to replicate, not to mention Brandon being able to throw darts in goal line situations. Only 2 WR's had a TD on their longest reception of the year.
The reason 2012 looks acceptable is because 8 WR's had TD's on their longest receptions. The Cowboys were scoring on longer throws. When you translate that to 2013...no fades or darts at the goal line, only 4 WR's had a TD on their longest reception, and another drop in QB completion percentage...you get a passing game that bore zero resemblance to 2011.
The Cowboys have plenty of experience and talent, but several players need to step into the void to "revive" this part of the offense.
If WR depth wasn't enough, in 2013 OSU began utilizing the occasional formation featuring a tight end. Jeremy Seaton is pretty happy with that development.
|44||Seaton, Jeremy||FB/TE||6-2||250||JR||Cashion, OK/Cashion|
|48||Hirst, Matthew||TE||6-3||228||RS FR||Flower Mound, TX/Flower Mound|
|85||Frazier, Jordan||TE||6-5||242||FR||Springfield, MO/Lighthouse Christian|
While Blake Jackson never lived up to expectations, his presence (as well as the occasional use of Tracy Moore inside) clearly demonstrated to the staff that having a big, thick body catching passes in the middle of the field is a major asset for an offense.
Well, if you're going to have that player on the field, why not line him up at TE once in a while, giving the offense the ability to deploy an extra blocker for running plays, or an extra level of "subterfuge." Find your talent and adapt. Add power formations to a scheme predicated on spreading out the defense and finding space. Create the ultimate stress on the opponent.
In the recent past, OSU has recruited tight ends and converted them to other positions (FB, IR, DE/LB). The Cowboys are now looking at TE's FOR the position, or a hybrid FB/TE situation like Seaton. Kye Staley showed that a big, bruising body can still be effective in this system focused on speed and space, and Gundy and Company have done a pretty good job finding those bodies. Justin Horton is another example.
With the departure of Staley and the addition of the TE friendly formations, there is an opportunity for Seaton to have an impact on OSU's offensive production in 2014. Jeremy played in 12 of 13 games last season and posted 6 catches for 56 yards and 2 TD's. I wouldn't be surprised to see the FB and TE positions officially become one hybrid position. Since the Cowboys do not use a FB or TE on every play, it is definitely possible for one player to master the dual responsibilities.
Overall, the receiving corp is by far and away in the best hands. It is definitely the deepest, and rivals defensive end for experience. That's a good thing, as their production will determine if the offense more closely resembles 2011 or 2013.