While Daxx Garman has received a lot of accolades for stepping in for No. 21 Oklahoma State after starting quarterback J.W. Walsh was injured, a group of young receivers has also emerged as important contributors.
Sophomore Marcel Ateman and freshman James Washington have both earned more playing time and made important catches for the Cowboys (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) since Garman took over for Walsh early in their 40-23 victory over Missouri State on Sept. 6.
Ateman has suddenly become the Cowboys' top receiver, gaining 70 yards on four receptions in a 40-13 win over UTSA on Sept. 13, and then hauling in six catches for 130 yards in a 45-35 victory over Texas Tech on Sept. 25.
"He's a guy that we're looking to to really contribute big time," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said of Ateman. "He's a young guy that works real hard, so the more reps and time he has, the better Marcel's going to get. He's still a young pup. We expect great things from him and he can get better."
While Ateman is still looking for his first college touchdown as Oklahoma State prepares to host Iowa State (1-3, 0-2 Big 12), Washington has picked up three in the last two games, totaling 120 yards on four receptions in those contests.
Even running back Tyreek Hill, a first-year junior college transfer, recorded his first college touchdown on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Garman against Texas Tech.
With Garman at the helm, Yurcich and head coach Mike Gundy have altered the team's offense to better take advantage of his skills and it has paid off, as Garman has thrown for 685 yards and six touchdowns in his two starts.
In those games, Garman has completed 11 passes of 30 or more yards, five for touchdowns. With Garman's ability to throw the long ball with impressive accuracy, Oklahoma State's tall, physical receivers have benefited.
"We'll continue to throw the ball vertically downfield," Gundy said. "We have some guys that can match up with Daxx's ability at this time."
Yurcich noted how it is part of their play design to try to get the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Ateman in one-on-one coverage, and so far that plan has been successful.
"He's an X receiver, so a lot of the time, when you line up in certain formations, that's the guy that gets single coverage, so he's a guy that needs to go up and catch the football," Yurcich said of Ateman. "He's shown that in practice and he can continue to get better."
Ateman pointed out that it's something he's been working on with Garman in practice together.
"He's going to put the ball where he thinks you can go get it, it's up to you to make the play," Ateman said of Garman. "He puts it on the money. That just comes from working with him in practice against our defense, they cover us a lot 1-on-1, and that's something that I had to improve on as a player. So now when I go out there and get the opportunity, he tells you, 'I'm going to put it up there, so go get it.'"
And while the speedy Washington, at 6-0, 193, is not quite as physically overpowering, he has done a nice job fighting for loose balls as well. His three touchdowns rank him second to starting running back Desmond Roland's four rushing TDs in team scoring.
"Very gifted athletically, James is a special young man and his future is very bright," Yurcich said. "Both (Washington and Ateman) have great attitudes, they really enjoy practicing, which is awesome. And for as talented as they are, those two guys are really level-headed and understand team, and that's really important. Our guys just want to win."