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'Not easy on my pulse': Young Oklahoma State receivers working to earn coaches' trust

Scott Wright
Oklahoman

STILLWATER — While the experience Oklahoma State’s young receivers are gaining by playing so early in their careers is a bonus for the players, it’s hard on Kasey Dunn’s heart rate.

“It’s not something that’s easy on my pulse,” the Cowboy offensive coordinator said. “That’s rough for me to watch those guys run around out there and know that at any moment there could be some sort of disaster. An alignment issue, a dropped pass, a broken assignment. Any of those things can happen when you have a true freshman out there playing.”

With seniors Tay Martin and Braydon Johnson out with injuries, two true freshmen were in the lineup virtually all day for the Cowboys in Saturday’s 28-23 win over Tulsa at Boone Pickens Stadium

Jaden Bray and Bryson Green combined for six receptions for 100 yards and two crucial touchdowns in which each of them made an impressive individual effort to score. Another true freshman, John Paul Richardson, had a pair of catches for 11 yards.

And of course, Brennan Presley isn’t exactly a veteran. He barely played as a true freshman last year, and now is looked at as a leader of the receiver group, despite his youth. He was targeted 10 times and caught four passes for 35 yards. 

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Oklahoma State's Jaden Bray (85) runs in for a touchdown in front of Tulsa's Dorian Hopkins (41) in the second quarter Saturday.

Bray was battling for a backup role in preseason, but saw injuries to Martin and Langston Anderson throw him into the lineup on a full-time basis. For a kid who played very little football in high school, his evolution has been on the fast track. 

“He’s a little bit scared to death, too, getting out there and playing in this kind of environment,” Dunn said. “Hot and pretty hostile game in a critical situation. But as you see him progress from when he came in in January till now… he’s big, he’s a monster. It’s just a matter of time with that kid before he really takes off. 

“I’m thrilled with what he did (Saturday), no question, and it was huge for Oklahoma State and our offense. I look forward to seeing more.”

Green was also a backup in the preseason, pushed into the lineup when his twin brother, Blaine, suffered an injury. 

Gradually, the young receivers are earning more trust from the coaching staff, which is only going to help an offense that is struggling to find consistency early in the season. 

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“They made some plays,” head coach Mike Gundy said. “(Bray), he dropped some balls, he made some plays.(Green) did some things, got ran over in blocking sometimes, made a great catch. That’s what you get with freshmen.

“You have to be patient with them. They were playing high school ball last year. So they’re gonna make some plays and they’re gonna make some mistakes. The illegal formation we had, we lined up wrong. You can bring ‘em over and yell at ‘em, but they’re freshmen.

“But it is what it is. Figure it out. That’s why coaches get paid money and that’s why they do what they do. They need to figure it out.”

The future of the receiver position looks quite promising for OSU, even if the present is a little stressful while the youngsters grow up.

“There’s a lot of youth out there,” Dunn said, “and a lot of good football ahead of Oklahoma State.”

OSU at Boise State

KICKOFF: 8 p.m. Saturday at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho (FS1)