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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats’ secondary has its hands full

Shane Keyser
Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon (81) tries to catch the ball as Kansas cornerback Calvin Rubles (17) is whistled for pass interference in the third quarter at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday, November 20, 2010. Oklahoma State defeated Kansas, 48-14. (Shane Keyser/Kansas City Star/MCT)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas— Oklahoma State features a bevy of offensive weapons that come together to make up the nation’s top offense. Behind gunslinger Brandon Weeden, it’s the Cowboys’ scheme and assortment of talent that led to the 537.6 yards they posted per game.

But while one player clearly doesn’t automatically transform a team into the country’s top offense, receiver Justin Blackmon is undoubtedly “”The Man”” for Oklahoma State.

The Biletnikoff Award winner – given to the nation’s top receiver – has posted gaudy numbers in only his sophomore season. One year after catching only 20 balls for 260 yards, Blackmon snared 102 passes for 1665 yards and 18 touchdowns and leads the nation in receiving yards (151.3) and catches (9.3) per game.

“”He’s a real physical receiver. He’s real big. They throw the ball up to him and he tries to make a play,”” said Arizona junior cornerback Robert Golden. “”He reminds me a lot of our receiver Juron Criner. Just going up against him and Dan Buckner in practice that’s going to help us a lot come Dec. 29.””

As Golden said, the Wildcats have a handful of big receivers that have helped them prepare for No. 81. But Arizona’s secondary has struggled over the course of the season, and no one player has really emerged as a shut-down corner who can match up with Blackmon.

But then again, there aren’t many corners in the country who can battle with Blackmon by himself.

“”He seems like catches everything within 10 feet of him so he’s his own entity,”” defensive coordinator Tim Kish said of Blackmon in a press release.

Blackmon’s gone for over 100 yards receiving in 11 games he’s played – he missed one due to a DUI charge – and snared 10 passes for a career-high 207 yards against Texas Tech. The sophomore Oklahoma-native also caught at least one touchdown in every game, while catching three on two separate occasions.

But despite all that talent, the Wildcats don’t plan on treating Blackmon differently than any of the other receivers they’ve faced.

“”We don’t do anything special for him,”” said senior safety Joe Perkins. “”We have a lot of good receivers in the Pac-10 so it’s just another receiving threat.””

In fact, Arizona didn’t exactly talk Blackmon up like he was the nation’s top receiver. Junior receiver Bug Wright played Blackmon in high school and all-but said he was a product of their system.

“”He wasn’t what he is now in high school, you can ask him about that,”” Wright said of the 6-foot-1, 207-pound wide receiver who was only a three-star recruit. “”He’s a good player, he’s developed into a nice receiver.

“”He’s in the right system,”” Wright added. “”They design plays for him and all that so he’s a good player.””

Arizona receiver Juron Criner, who plays a similar game to Blackmon in terms of physicality and speed, said that he thinks he’s a better receiver than the Biletnikoff Award winner.

“”Of course I’m going to say me,”” said Criner, who caught 73 balls for 1186 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

“”To tell you the truth I really don’t know. I really don’t watch much film on him but I hear about him a lot,”” he added.

Although Arizona isn’t treating him like a superstar, the Wildcats have struggled against No. 1 receivers this season. Iowa’s Derrell Johnson Koulianos caught seven balls for 114 yards and a score against Arizona earlier in the year.

Oregon State’s James Rodgers went off for seven catches, 102 yards and a touchdown in less than two quarters of play, as he left the game before halftime with a season-ending knee injury.

Washington State’s No. 1, freshman Marquess Wilson, caught six passes for 131 yards and a score against the Wildcats. Stanford’s Chris Owusu snared nine balls for 165 yards and a score against Arizona.

Needless to say, the Wildcats don’t exactly have a shut-down corner, meaning Blackmon could have a field day. But Oklahoma State boasts a handful of top-notch receivers, worsening Arizona’s secondary issues.

“”They’re all good, it’s just Blackmon gets more balls than most of them,”” Perkins said. “”(Josh Cooper), he’s a good receiver; (Bo Bowling) is a great receiver; they have (Michael Harrison) in the slot. They’re pretty much loaded.””

Sure the Wildcats’ defense has to deal with slowing down explosive running back Kendall Hunter – 261 carries for 1,516 yards and 16 touchdowns – but slowing down Weeden, Blackmon and the never-ending options at receiver is the defense’s biggest challenge.

“”It’s gonna be a challenge to us because we can’t throw all our eggs at one receiver and expect to leave the other guys isolated,”” Kish said. “”So that’s gonna be our challenge going into this thing.””

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