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Receiver Reps Breakdown: Sergeant Stoner Big in Return



Starting last season, it was apparent how much Mike Gundy loved Dillon Stoner.

It culminated with a fourth quarter touchdown pass to James Washington against Central Michigan. It was stunning and confusing and beautiful.

Then he suffered a season-ending injury and had surgery. He made his return Thursday against Tulsa and showed out in Oklahoma State’s 59-24 victory against Tulsa at Boone Pickens Stadium. During the postgame show, Carson Cunningham dubbed him “Sergeant Stoner” to replace General Walsh as the guy most likely to get his troops on the same page before, during and after a game.

Stoner took 29 snaps while Mason Rudolph was in at quarterback. That was more than Tyron Johnson and Chris Lacy and almost as many as Marcell Ateman. And he wasn’t just out there to be out there. Rudolph targeted Stoner four times, which was more than anyone except James Washington and Ateman. And he caught all four balls that went his direction, which tied him for second on the team. He thrived (and will continue to thrive) in this offense.

It was unclear the role freshman Tylan Wallace will play in dividing Jalen McCleskey and Stoner’s reps, but Wallace didn’t take a single snap while Rudolph was in.

The rest of the reps at receiver fell into place as expected with Washington and McCleskey taking the most, Ateman and Lacy splitting, and Johnson making the most of his chances behind The President.

 OSU Receiver Reps
Receiver Plays
James Washington 37
Jalen McCleskey 37
Marcell Ateman 31
Dillon Stoner 29
Chris Lacy 21
Tyron Johnson 13
Tylan Wallace 0

Stoner came in mostly as a replacement for the Cowboy Back, when used, and spread the field nicely. He was effective in the short screen game, catching and blocking, and was fairly solid working the middle of the field, catching one and drawing a pass interference call on another.

McCleskey had a rough night in all facets. He fudged a punt return that turned into a Tulsa touchdown and caught only one ball for a negative total yardage on the night.

Otherwise, the production mostly followed the number of reps each receiver got. Johnson might have only had one catch in those 13 snaps, but he made it worth it for a 44-yard score. And Washington was just flat-out phenomenal, per every other time he has played the sport of American football.

Lost in the mix, as I honestly suspected, was Lacy. McCleskey just had an off night, but Lacy’s performance was quiet enough to make you realize that there’s always going to be at least one odd man out this year: He had one catch for 13 yards. His 21 reps were obviously 10 fewer than Ateman received, but for some reason, they felt like 15-20 less. Lacy was targeted three times, but one of the incompletions was a weak underthrow as Rudolph tried to throw across his momentum, and the other was an early drop on a screen pass.

None of that matters, most likely, as almost everyone has classified this group of receivers as “selfless.” Still, it must sting at times, and Gundy said he knows how it is.

“We’re gonna have a lot of good players that don’t get to touch the ball a lot because we don’t have enough footballs to go around,” Gundy said in the postgame.

I suspect Gundy’s allocation of reps Thursday night was a template for what to expect. Wallace won’t redshirt. He is too talented to be forced to sit, but as long as everyone is healthy, he likely won’t see more than 20 reps in any meaningful action this season.

It will be interesting to follow the progression here at WR as the season wears on and all of these guys vie to be on the field in big spots for big games. It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Cowboys, and one I’m sure will not be easy to solve for opposing defenses.

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