Heading into the 2015 season, the strength of the Oklahoma State offense was the depth at wide receiver. Fast forward to a year later and the Cowboys should be the deepest team at wide receiver in the conference once again.
The Cowboys were headlined by James Washington and David Glidden last season but Mason Rudolph had no shortage of receivers to sling it to. Washington should garner some preseason hype, but the most dangerous receiver may be slipping under the radar.
Marcell Ateman had a stellar season last year, catching 45 passes for 766 yards and five touchdowns. The numbers may not scream dynamic, but with players like Washington and Glidden receiving the majority of the looks, Ateman established himself as a great No. 3 receiver.
What makes Ateman so valuable is his 6-4, 215 pound frame. Ateman made himself known as a jump-ball threat, nabbing 50-50 balls one right after another. Ateman strives in the vertical passing game, which compliments Rudolph's beautiful long ball. Ateman caught 11 passes of 20+ yards last season, including an 82 yard touchdown pass against TCU. The then-junior was third on the team behind Washington and Glidden in both receptions and yards. He was also second in touchdown receptions behind Washington.
With Glidden gone, Washington will no doubt be the focal point of the Oklahoma State offense. The connection Washington and Rudolph has is something that we haven't seen since Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. But Ateman brings something to the table that Washington cannot. Ateman's size and strength bring a unique wrinkle to the passing game. Rudolph was able to lob the ball into single coverage, and more times than not, Ateman came down with it. Washington and Ateman can both spread the field, Washington with his speed, and Ateman with his size. The two have the potential to be the best 1-2 punch in the Big 12.
The Cowboys are loaded at the wide receiver position for 2016. Washington and Ateman will lead the way, while Jhajuan Seales, Austin Hays and Jalen McCleskey all return with plenty of experience. Rudolph is going to put up some big numbers this year, so keep an eye out for Ateman. I wouldn't be surprised to see him turn into just as big of a threat as Washington.