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Ateman Hitting Stride After Fourth Straight 100-Yard Game



Only Marcell Ateman could have expected the year Marcell Ateman is having.

After sitting out all of the 2016 season with a broken foot, he is on pace to put his 2015 season to shame. In the Cowboys 59-16 sleeper against Baylor for homecoming, Ateman had perhaps the best half of his career and maybe the block of his life.

Late in the first quarter, with the OSU offense sputtering a bit, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich put running back Justice Hill at quarterback for a fourth and 1 play, which he converted to the Bears’ 38 yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Mason Rudolph took the snap and looked left to Ateman on a curl route.

The pass was accurate, but Ateman’s cornerback was bearing down. He lowered his head and draped the defender over his back, flipped him and took off.

The rest was just mean.

That touchdown was the igniter for Ateman’s four-catch, 119-yard performance. After that, he nearly scored twice more if not for last-ditch tackles. Through OSU’s first six games, Ateman has 568 receiving yards including four games in a row with 100+ yards. His total thus far this season is less than 200 away from his all-time mark of 766 in 2015.

With four touchdowns on the season now, he is also only one score away from tying his mark from his previous three seasons combined. He said he expected it. “Mentally, I did,” Ateman said. “Once it came down on me, I took it for what it was. I stayed hard in my faith, and I told myself, ‘I’m gonna come out, and I’m gonna play hard, every down.'”

Ateman finished with 46 catches and 766 receiving yards as a junior. At the stride he is at now, he is on pace to snag four more passes than that and to accrue 1,136 yards. The scary part, at least for opposing defenses, is there is a guy even better across the field.

James Washington caught six balls for 235 yards, and if he keeps his averages up, he will finish the 2017 season with 158 more yards than Ateman. The man given the nickname “Marcell Moss” is on The President’s heels more than people understand.

No one doubts Washington will go ahead of Ateman in the NFL Draft, but given Ateman’s 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, he is bound to creep toward the top of scouts’ big boards. There was perhaps no greater display of his athletic ability than on the block he plowed for Justice Hill’s 79-yard sprint down the left sideline in the second quarter.

Realizing Hill was going to round the corner, Ateman picked up on the play downfield and engaged his cornerback. He drove him 15 yards while Hill zoomed by on his way to the end zone.

Ateman said blocking is something he and all the other receivers take pride in and expect NFL scouts to pick up on. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich did at least.

“Seeing him finish down the field was awesome,” Yurcich said. “Perimeter blocking is so, so important because you never see big time run touchdowns without great, exceptional perimeter blocking and a run go for explosive yards.”

Yurcich said having a group of guys as talented through the air as the OSU receivers is special but even more so that they understand their value as blockers downfield.

Ateman is growing into a complete receiver whereas previously in his career he was used almost exclusively as a big body in the red zone. His routes are crisper. His blocks are clearly stronger. And his number are far more eye-grabbing. As his play grows, so, too, does his draft stock, and Ateman knows that.

“I got something to play for,” he said.

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