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September 28, 2010For a college football player, a jump between year one and year two is to be expected.
But in the case of Justin Blackmon, it's been much more of a giant leap, as he has seemingly taken over the mantle of top receiver at Oklahoma State, poised to join the likes of Hart Lee, Rashaun and Dez as the next great wideout in Stillwater.
After a rookie season of 20 receptions, 260 yards and two touchdowns, so far in 2010 Blackmon has posted 24 catches, 431 yards and eight scores. A 1,700-yard, 32-touchdown season pace is not a bad track to be on.
Will his big-season-in-the-making hold? No one knows, but head coach Mike Gundy believes he has just continued to get better.
"And the reason for that is because he practices very well," he said. "He practices hard, he accepts coaching, he listens, he studies tape and the game is important to him. As long as he continues to do that, then he'll improve."
Improve? Well, that has to make OSU fans imagine a Blackbird-level ceiling for the Ardmore product, who seems to be developing a knack as Brandon Weeden's go-to guy.
But the quarterback says that hasn't entirely been by design.
"The thing is, it's kind of weird, because Blackmon is getting a lot of catches and all this, but we're really just taking what the defense gives us," Weeden said. "If it was Hubert (Anyiam) over there, he'd be getting the same catches. I don't really look at one guy - obviously we figured out some things tonight we can do with Blackmon - but I have confidence in all of those guys. They all run great routes and are smart and savvy. It's just kind of a coincidence that Blackmon is getting all the catches and pub."
So what is it about Blackmon this season that makes him so much more of a prolific scorer? Going into this week's game against Texas A&M, Blackmon leads the nation in scoring, averaging 18 points - three touchdowns a game. Not only that, but he leads the NCAA in receiving yards per game (143.67) and is sixth in total receiving yards.
So, again, what is it about Blackmon this season?
"Maturity and experience," Gundy said. "He was just trying to make it last year. He was just trying to block the right guy and be on the right spot on the route and then when he caught it he just started to fall down because he was so happy he caught a ball. He's matured now and has some game experience - there's no substitute for experience - and now he's trying to score when he catches the ball."
No. 81 agrees with that assessment.
"That's pretty much right," Blackmon said. "Now I feel like I can do a lot more with the ball in space than I did last year. It's just all the off-season work we put in, got a little faster, got a little bigger and that's what gave me the confidence to do that out there."
Gundy believes his developing skill will be what sets him apart as he continues to gain more experience on the playing field.
"He's got good body control and he's got good hands," Gundy said. "He's somewhat deceiving speed-wise, in my opinion, because of the way he strides. He's bought in, in the last three or four months, more so than he did as a freshman. But obviously, when you're a freshman, it's a tough pull. But he's been very good for us and if he continues to do this, he'll make a lot of plays."