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Notebook: Nixon’s Value in Passing Game, McKinney Making Most of Opportunity, Bo Hardy Jersey

‘Bo Hardy, I want that jersey bad — so bad.’



[Bruce Waterfield/OSU Athletics]

STILLWATER — The Cowboys are 2-0 all while playing a variety of players at nearly every position.

Oklahoma State will play South Alabama at 6 p.m. Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium. Mike Gundy on Monday called the Jaguars the best team OSU will have played to this point.

OSU players met with the media after Monday’s practice in the Sherman E. Smith Training Center. Here are three storylines that stood out.

Nixon Adding Value in Passing Game

The Cowboys have a deep receiver room that includes guys like Brennan Presley, De’Zhaun Stribling, Jaden Bray, Talyn Shettron, Rashod Owens and Blaine Green. But through two games, running back Jaden Nixon is the Pokes’ fourth-leading pass catcher with six catches for 45 yards.

A 5-foot-10, 185-pound speedster from Dallas, Nixon has had 13 carries for 70 rushing yards — both the lowest (narrowly) among the Cowboys’ three-pronged rushing attack. But Nixon is able to add value to his snaps by being a threat in the passing game.

CarriesRushing YardsCatchesReceiving YardsAll-Purpose Yards
Ollie Gordon1697432129
Jaden Nixon1370645115
Elijah Collins167121990

Nixon leads OSU in PFF receiving grades at 81.3 — nearly 10 points higher than second-place Stribling at 71.5.

“I feel like it’s going to be very important because it opens up a lot for us to do as far as the offense,” Nixon said. “Because now it’s like now you have to account for a running back coming out of the backfield and running a pass play and everything like that. And that can open somebody else up at another position and everything like that.

“You really have to be on your toes in what’s going on, especially situations like how BP scored that last touchdown. If we put him in the backfield, you can have him run, you could have me go out for a route, you could have me run, you could have him go out for a route — it’s just a lot of combinations that really puts us in the best situation and everything like that.”

D.J. McKinney Making Most of Opportunity

Through two games, a redshirt freshman leads the way in Pro Football Focus grades for the OSU defense.

D.J. McKinney has played 93 defensive snaps, according to PFF, where he has a grade of 80.9. The next closest player with at least 50 snaps played is Nathan Latu (79 snaps) with a 73.4.

Thus far in 2023, McKinney has seven tackles and a pair of pass breakups.

McKinney garnered some fall camp buzz last season before playing in four games as a true freshman, keeping his redshirt. But with Korie Black and Cam Smith returning and the addition of Kenneth Harris through the transfer portal, it was a wonder if McKinney would still have to wait a year before making an impact with the Cowboys. It appears his time is now.

“I was just ready for them to call my name,” McKinney said. “I just took advantage of the opportunity they gave me, so I’ve just been ready ever since.”

Xavier Benson Wants a Bo Hardy Jersey

Redshirt senior linebacker Xavier Benson is going to give some interesting answers no matter the topic.

On Monday, Benson fielded questions about fans and family members being able to wear replicas of his jersey because of NIL. But Benson has his eyes on another jersey.

“Bo Hardy, I want that jersey bad — so bad,” Benson said. “… It just looks cool. I don’t know why. It’s just 51 Hardy. I just don’t know why, it just looks cool to me. I like it a lot.”

For the uninitiated, Hardy is a walk-on linebacker from Piedmont. A 5-foot-11, 213-pound redshirt junior, Hardy didn’t play in his first two seasons in Stillwater before playing nine games as a special teamer in 2022 where he made four tackles. He is a two-time scout team player of the week.

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