Dynamic Dez: Big-play receiver confident for opener
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
9/01/09 at 11:04 AM
STILLWATER — In 1996 and 1997, Gunter Brewer was Randy Moss' position coach at Marshall.
Now the co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach at Oklahoma State, Brewer coaches Dez Bryant.
Frequently, Brewer is asked to compare OSU's junior dynamo to the Moss who shredded college defenses before shredding NFL defenses.
"Dez blocks better than Randy. Dez brings a lot of the same thing to the game — a lot of electricity and a lot of big-time playmaking," Brewer said. "Randy's biggest attributes are his height and speed. Dez's biggest attributes are that he's so strong and runs through tacklers."
For Bryant, Saturday's ABC-televised, season-opening showdown — No. 13 Georgia visiting No. 9 OSU — represents another opportunity to emulate Moss' knack for big plays.
"Not just me, but the whole team — we're ready," Bryant said. "We feel very confident coming into this game."
In slightly more than two quarters of last year's loss to Oregon, Bryant set Holiday Bowl records for catches (13) and receiving yards (167). He was unable to finish the game because of a knee injury that required surgery in January.
An All-American, an All-Big 12 selection and a Biletnikoff Award finalist, Bryant ended the 2008 season with 87 catches (second-best in school history behind Rashaun Woods' 107 in 2002), 1,480 yards (second-best behind Woods' 1,695 in 2002) and a school-record 19 touchdown catches.
On punt returns, Bryant was No. 3 nationally with a 17.9-yard average, scoring twice. The 2008 Big 12 special-teams player of the year, he will return punts again this season.
Last month, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said Bryant deserves to be placed on the top tier of Heisman Trophy candidates.
"If you're looking for the best college football player... he's a pretty good player," Gundy said.
Bryant is a veteran of only 16 starts, yet is among OSU's career leaders in receiving yards (2,102, ranking fifth) and receptions (130, ranking fourth). With 25 touchdown catches, he is third behind Woods (42) and Hart Lee Dykes (29).
"Dez has grown a lot as a player," OSU quarterback Zac Robinson said. "Obviously, he's a great player."
Against Georgia, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Bryant is matched with starting cornerbacks who stand 5-8 (Prince Miller) and 5-10 (Brandon Boykin).
"It's almost here. It's time to play," Bryant said. "All of the learning and stuff — that's over."
Georgia has a Dez Bryant-caliber talent of its own in 6-4 sophomore wide receiver A.J. Green, who last season had 56 catches, averaging 17.2 yards per reception and scoring eight touchdowns.
"I don't think A.J. is nearly as established as Dez," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "Dez has done it for a couple of years, and Dez's statistics were stronger than A.J.'s. A.J. was just learning how to play college football. This year, he's certainly bigger and stronger than he was, but I don't know if he's quite as strong as Dez."
Bryant is rated by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. as the No. 8 NFL draft prospect overall and the top wide receiver, but Bryant ignores the speculation that the 2009 season could be his finale as a Cowboy.
He says he'll make his NFL decision after the season. Until then, he has a singular focus — to lead Oklahoma State to at least 10 wins for the first since 1988 and to its first appearance in a Bowl Championship Series game.
Because he likely will attract multiple defenders on every snap, Bryant will be challenged to match last season's statistics. If he were to finish with, for example, 65 receptions instead of 87, "it won't be a disappointment at all, as long as we win more games than we did last year," Bryant said. "I don't care if I have any catches. If we are in a BCS bowl, that's the only goal."
Bryant has become an elite receiver, Brewer says, because of his huge hands, 35-inch vertical leap, the strength to shed would-be tacklers and the willingness to take throws in the middle of the field.
"He's fearless," Brewer said. "Some people just won't come across the middle, and he has no fear of it. And he's blocking his butt off right now, and that's the final piece of the puzzle for him. I'm so proud of him for doing that. He now has become a complete player."
A Lufkin, Texas, native, Bryant was able to palm a basketball when he was in the sixth grade. He got his first dunk during the summer before his seventh-grade year.
"Dez just has amazing athleticism," Brewer said. "We're glad he's on our side. He looks good in black and orange."
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OSU's Dez Bryant is a veteran of only 16 starts, yet is among OSU's career leaders in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns. STEPHEN HOLMAN / Tulsa World file