In Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, many see Michael Crabtree
BY DAVE SITTLER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
10/12/10 at 9:07 PM
Correction: A Tuesday Tulsa World Sports column incorrectly stated that Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen first mentioned former Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree's name in comparison with OSU receiver Justin Blackmon. Holgorsen was asked to compare the two players. This story has been corrected.
Go to Dave Sittler's BlogOriginal Print Headline: In Blackmon, many see Crabtree
STILLWATER - These are pretty heady times for Justin Blackmon. It doesn't get much better for a wide receiver than to be mentioned in the same sentence with Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree.
Those comparisons are obviously a wee bit premature. After all, Blackmon is a redshirt sophomore who has played in only 18 college games.
But Blackmon has an opportunity this week to outperform Crabtree in one crucial area. If he does, OSU has a chance to silence those who still doubt the Cowboys despite their No. 20 national ranking and perfect records (5-0, 1-0 Big 12).
The Pokes have a 2:30 p.m. date Saturday at Texas Tech (3-2, 1-2), which happens to be where Crabtree played his college ball before becoming a first-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers.
As great as he was as a Red Raider, and few have been better, Crabtree cost Tech a win in a memorable 49-45 OSU victory in 2007. A wide-open Crabtree dropped a potential game-winning pass with only 19 seconds left in the wild contest at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Crabtree's rare error became a footnote because of what happened later. OSU coach Mike Gundy went bonkers in his postgame press conference, and Tech coach Mike Leach fired his defensive coordinator the next day.
It wasn't like Crabtree was having a bad day. But even though he had 14 catches for 237 yards and three touchdowns against the Pokes, Crabtree's drop enabled OSU to post the sixth win it needed to become bowl eligible.
Based on what has transpired the first five weeks of the 2010 season, OSU and Tech could have another high-scoring shootout in the critical Big 12 game at Jones AT&T Stadium. OSU is second in the nation, averaging 52.6 points a game, while Tech's 36.8 average is 17th.
Blackmon, the 6-foot-1, 207-pounder from Ardmore, has been outstanding all five games. But it was his performance in last week's 54-28 win at Louisiana-Lafayette that elicited comparisons to Moss and Crabtree.
OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden mentioned Moss, the Minnesota Vikings' all-pro. Weeden marveled at the circus catch Blackmon made between two defenders on a 37-yard touchdown.
After Blackmon torched the Ragin' Cajuns for 190 yards and two touchdowns on 13 receptions, OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen was asked about Crabtree.
Holgorsen spent eight seasons at Tech learning Leach's "Air Raid" scheme. He claims Blackmon has Crabtree-like skills when it comes to strength, intelligence, strong hands, wingspan and the ability to locate the ball and go get it.
Thanks to Holgorsen, Blackmon knows all about Crabtree. When Holgorsen arrived on campus last January, he brought along a bunch of videos on Tech's offense.
"When we first started learning the offense, we watched a whole bunch of clips on Crabtree," Blackmon said Monday. "Some of the things I do are from the stuff I got from watching him on film."
While he's basically the same size as the 6-foot-1, 214-pound Crabtree, Blackmon may never match the staggering numbers put up by the two-time Biletnikoff Award winner. In two seasons at Tech, Crabtree had a combined 231 receptions for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Blackmon's stats as a redshirt freshman pale in comparison. But after recording 20 catches for 260 yards and two TDs last season, he's been on fire this year with 47 receptions for 748 yards and 11 TDs.
The nation's leader in catches per game (9.6) and yards per game (149.60), Blackmon is well within range of his lone individual preseason goal of compiling 1,000 yards in receptions.
"I don't know what my numbers are exactly," said Blackmon, who is on a 1,795-yard pace. "People tell me things, but I haven't looked at them."
Weeden saw a Randy Moss on training wheels Friday when Blackmon made a Moss-like move by throwing his hand up in the air asking for the ball. The junior quarterback praised Blackmon's various communication skills.
"I pick his brain on the sidelines and he does the same with me," Weeden said. "One of his attributes that really doesn't get talked about much is his savvy. He understands defenses and he understands coverages."
Instead of Moss or Crabtree, Blackmon prefers to be compared to a former OSU teammate and wideout. He tries to copy former All-American Dez Bryant's ability to take ownership of the football.
"Dez always competed hard when he stepped in between the lines," Blackmon said of Bryant, a first-round choice of the Dallas Cowboys. "When the ball's in the air, it's your ball. Dez did that really well, and that's something I want to take from him."
If the ball's in the air on a potential game-winning play in your opponent's home stadium, Blackmon can establish his own standard for comparison by making the clutch catch.
History suggests Blackmon could get that opportunity Saturday afternoon in Crabtree's backyard.
OSU's Justin Blackmon has been on fire this season with 47 catches for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World