MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

April 10, 2013

Cowboys seek to spread the ball

STILLWATER — With double the receiving yards of the next receiver and more than triple the receptions, Josh Stewart was no doubt the top target of the Oklahoma State University’s quarterback carrousel in the 2012 season.

Between rotation quarterbacks due to injuries and injuries to veteran receivers Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson in the middle of the season, the explosive Stewart was called upon to be a spark in the passing game — which led to a team-high seven TD receptions and an average of 93.1 yards per game.

“That situation was created because of injuries. Our experienced receivers — particularly Tracy (Moore) and Isaiah Anderson and Charlie Moore were down for a while,” coach Mike Gundy said. “He became the most experienced receiver that we had. And he’s a good player, so he got overused. When the quarterbacks went through the carousel that they did throughout the season, it’s much easier to find a receiver that’s closer to you — which would be an inside receiver — than one that’s further away.

“For that reason, he got a lot more touches than he should have based on durability. He would love to have another 100 catches this year and carry the ball a few times. He’ll be a very important player in our offense, but we have to distribute the ball a little more evenly to keep him healthy. We were fortunate to keep him healthy.”

But Stewart, who admitted he was feeling banged up by season’s end, said he wouldn’t mind another year of triple-digit receptions for the Cowboys.

“I’m ready to do whatever my team needs me to do. When my name’s called, I’m going to try to continue to make plays,” Stewart said. “... If they want to throw me 100 balls again, I’m going to do my best to catch them. It doesn’t really matter.”

Stewart was also utilized in the running game with several play calls having him run the end around out of the receiver position. He ran the ball eight times for 120 yards and a touchdown — with his longest run going for 46 yards.

Though the Cowboys are under new management on offense with first-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, Stewart said it doesn’t appear his role will be much different than it was this past season. Yurcich has stated an up-tempo pace will be stressed and the speedy Stewart will likely be a key role in that.

However, the hope is to make sure it’s not all dumped on the Denton, Texas, native.

“We’re looking to spread the ball out a lot and not just target one person,” Stewart said. “We’re going to give everybody the chance to make plays. That’s what’s good about him (Yurcich).”

The Cowboys may want to find a way to spread the ball around with Gundy’s plan to include Stewart in punt returns. He had just two returns — in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in January — but it was enough for Gundy.

“He is our punt returner for now. He had two returns and one of them for 70 yards in the bowl game, so he won the job,” Gundy said. “I love Chuck Moore, but it doesn’t quite look the same when Chuck is returning as it is with Josh.”

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