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Taylor Cornelius Needs to Continue to Lean on His Stars

Depth may be underrated but start power is invaluable.

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Much of the talk about Oklahoma State’s passing game has centered around the man behind center, and for good reason.

Taylor Cornelius is either still working the bugs out of what will become a successful senior year, or he’s leading OSU toward that inevitable transition into the Dru Brown era. No one really knows at this point.

But what is abundantly clear is that in spite of the departure of a Biletnikoff winner and another 1,000-yard wideout, Oklahoma State has plenty of talent left in its receiving corps.

That talent was put on display against South Alabama with a couple of career games from true sophomore Tylan Wallace and touted transfer Tyron Johnson.

But they aren’t the only two options in the passing game, and just like last season, there aren’t enough footballs to go around.

“They are doing a good job, they are working hard and they are unselfish,” Mike Gundy said of his receivers on Monday. “That’s the most difficult thing for our offense. You’ve got one person that gets to touch the ball every play and you have 10 guys that have to be unselfish and are willing to help him score.

“It’s going to be that way based on how teams play us. I like how they are sharing time and how they are blocking downfield, so they are making some strides.”

In Week 1, it was Jalen McCleskey who led the team with six catches for 66 yards to go along with two touchdowns. Quietly, Dillon Stoner — maybe OSU’s most versatile weapon — has grabbed eight catches for 83 yards in two games.

And we haven’t even mentioned guys like Landon Wolf, Braydon Johnson and LC Greenwood, all high-upside playmakers in the two-deep.

Star Power

While depth is plenty important and Mike Gundy and Co. don’t take it for granted, you need stars, and you have to identify your go-to options.

Last year, it was Washington and Ateman who had years worth of collateral built up with Mason Rudolph. Cornelius came into training camp having to find his own top targets, and he had a slew of enticing options. As he found out last Saturday, the Oil Baron can’t go wrong with Wallace and Johnson.

Gundy talked about the Offices of Cornelius, Wallace & Johnson® and the chemistry their practice has built thus far.

“They get so much work in practice,” Gundy said. “Now again, that doesn’t mean it’s a game, but it made a difference for us.

“They’re guys that we can count on. They’ll need to play that way and even play better as we progress into next week.”

You could quickly glance over the chart below for evidence or simply use your eyes to watch the games. Some people just have the goods and these two are textbook examples of “it”. Watch Tyron Johnson scurry past defenders and turn a 15-yard gain into 60. Watch Tylan Wallace out-leap and out-grab everyone on the field.

“Those guys got to win,” said Mike Yurcich of his two wideouts. “You see it every game, there’s always a play that’s one-on-one and they’ve got to win that matchup. We’re glad that we have a lot athleticism as a whole that we can win those battles. We’ve got to continue to improve at that position.”

A Look at the Numbers
Receiver Targets Catches Catch Rate Yards Scores Yards/Target
Tylan Wallace 22 14 63.6% 214 2 9.7
Tyron Johnson 9 7 77.8% 150 16.7
Dillon Stoner 12 8 66.7% 83 6.9
Jalen McCleskey 12 8 66.7% 77 2 6.4
Landon Wolf 5 4 80.0% 41 8.2

 

In a small sampling, Tyron Johnson continues to prove his ability to take the top off of a defense, but has also been ultra-efficient to date, grabbing all but two of his targets. Last year, in a reserve role behind James Washington, Johnson caught 18 of his 27 targets (66.7 percent catch rate) and average 10.9 yards per target, behind only Washington and Ateman among receivers with at least five targets.

Wallace was even further down the totem pole as a true freshman, but the fact that he even saw the field in 2017 is a testament to his skill level. He might just be OSU’s best wide receiver currently on the roster, and he should only get better.

If Taylor Cornelius has proven anything through his first two starts, it’s that he knows how to distribute the ball to his playmakers. Maybe that’s intuition, maybe it’s just inevitable with the #Freaks lined up on either side of him. But if he continues to feed his stars, it should bode well for his station as QB1 and it should bode well for OSU.

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