July 14, 2008

Bryant poised to take over in '08

Not to put too much pressure on a young player… oh heck, why not?

Random prediction: Dez Bryant will go down as the best wide receiver in Oklahoma State history and will be surpassed in Cowboy football lore only by those guys named Sanders and Thomas.

There, I said it. I'm high on Bryant. Like a kite. He showed me enough last season that I believe he's a legend-in-the-making. Maybe that's not going off that far on a limb, but he's still young and has three years to go, so anything could end up happening.

Even so, take this elevator all the way to the top floor. There's no downside here.

Like speculators driving up the price of the oil futures market, I'm bullish on the future of Bryant at OSU. The Lufkin, Texas, product came to Stillwater with much press, as he was one of the highest-rated recruits ever to ink with the Cowboys. Rivals.com had him as the seventh-best prospect in Texas, the ninth-best receiver in the nation and the 54th-best recruit overall in 2007.

With recruiting acclaim like that, you're expected to perform. The 6-2 Texan didn't disappoint, as he quickly became the No. 2 receiver behind Adarius Bowman and even started to outshine him toward the end of the season. While the 43-28 final tally from the game against Kansas isn't something Cowboy fans want to remember, Bryant's performance sure is worth saving in the memory banks. He reeled in eight passes for 155 yards (highest reception total for anyone in orange in 2007) with one touchdown against the Jayhawks.

That game was his coming-out party and served notice to Orange Country that there was a new standard-bearer in the WR department, taking the torch from the likes of Bowman, the Woods Brothers and Hart Lee Dykes. He finished last season with 622 yards and six scores, two apiece in the games against Kansas State and Indiana.

We all know how special he became last year, but what of his future? Just how big of a career can he have at OSU? Plenty big, in my opinion. While no one is going to confuse Zac Robinson with a John Elway or Joe Montana in terms of throwing ability, he has shown to be able to be a good passer and able to get the ball downfield when needed. That said, Bryant will go alongside Brandon Pettigrew as co-top targets this season. Even so, Pettigrew is a tight end and won't always be looking for the pass. That means this is officially Bryant's season to take center stage in the passing game and make a name for himself nationally. Bowman is out of the picture and it's up to No. 1 to prove that he's, well, No. 1.

I've been accused of hyperbole in the past, so am I making too much of Bryant too soon? Possibly, but wild predictions are one of the fun areas for a sports columnist. Having said that, I think I'm still underestimating Bryant's upside. The accomplishments of Dykes and Rashaun Woods were big for OSU, but Bryant's career will end the debate of which wideout is the best in school history. He will play catch with Robinson for a couple of seasons and then seriously entertain going pro early. With the way OSU's offense is designed, he'll get his numbers in yards and TDs in spades and it'll be tough to come back to Stillwater in 2010.

So enjoy watching the best wide receiver ever to set foot on campus. My feeling is you'll only have a couple of more seasons to do it.

Justin Wilmeth is the editor of OStateIllustrated.com. He can be reached by e-mail at justin@ostate.com.

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