Apr. 25—Oklahoma State football may have found replacements for its skill players lost to graduation and this week’s NFL Draft.
Those young Cowboys were on display Saturday in the annual spring game at Boone Pickens Stadium. They made a handful of plays that left thousands of fans and their teammates excited about the future just days before former stars Tylan Wallace and Chuba Hubbard are expected to be drafted.
One of those players was freshman Jaden Bray, a Norman High product. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound wide receiver caught the first two touchdowns of the game.
The first of those came in the final minute of the first half. Sophomore quarterback Shane Illingworth threw a fade pass to the end zone, and although the pass was slightly underthrown, Bray made a 25-yard catch that resembled something Wallace would have brought down during his time as OSU.
Bray’s second touchdown came from redshirt senior Ethan Bullock in the second half. It was a 7-yard throw and Bray had to make a diving catch while being blanketed by the defense. It was a close call, but the catch was ruled complete.
Unofficially, Bray finished his first spring game as a Cowboy with four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns. His teammates had plenty of good things to say about the true freshman who’s only been on campus a few months.
Another young receiver that shined during the spring game was redshirt freshman Rashod Owens.
The San Antonio native made a double move on an out-and-up route that turned into a 66-yard touchdown pass from Illingworth on the last drive from the “Black” team, which beat the “Orange” squad, 27-19.
Owens, a 6-2, 200-pound wideout also caught a 14-yard pass earlier in the game. True freshman John Paul Richardson also caught seven passes for 55 yards on the “Black” squad.
Redshirt senior Tay Martin and sophomore Brennan Presley were targeted a lot on the “Orange” team by starting quarterback Spencer Sanders. They are two of the leading receivers coming back, and both have had good spring seasons.
Martin had seven receptions for 72 yards, unofficially. Meanwhile, Presley caught six passes for 55 yards.
“We need him to continue to work hard,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said of Martin. “We need him to stay healthy and stay in good physical condition, and he should help us move the football.”
Presley also had the only touchdown for the “Orange” team. It was a 7-yard score on an end-around play, which was the final play of the game.
Presley’s touchdown his patience on the play resembled his first collegiate touchdown, which was a 9-yard run against Kansas State. He talked about it Saturday.
“It honesty felt really similar,” Presley said. “Anytime I get a play like that where I know I’m getting the ball, I just tell myself to go make a play, because you’re getting the ball for a reason — they think you can make that play, so it’s just executing that play and making it happen.”
On the ground, the Cowboys were down two running backs who contributed late last fall, and redshirt senior LD Brown was limited to just a few series. Carrying the bulk of the load for the “Orange” team was redshirt freshman Zach Middleton, a Bishop Kelley High graduate.
Middleton ran the ball 23 times for 84 yards.
“Zach, I’m guessing carried the ball more than anybody today,” Gundy said. “We were down a couple backs, so his team had to get a little more reps at the running back position than others, but I thought he handled himself really well. He’s a young guy, but he’s been in the program a year. He’s gotten out of the newness of it, and he really had a good spring. He showed today some physicality with taking quite a few hits.”
The “Black” team was led on the ground by senior Jaylen Warren, a transfer from Utah State, and redshirt sophomore Andre Washington. Warren broke a 38-yard run to highlight his day of 13 carries for 94 yards.
Washington also amassed 32 yards on eight carries.
“Those guys have had more reps this spring than most starters have had over the last 15 years,” Gundy said. “We had a few veteran receivers that missed some spring ball with an injury here or injury there. Those young guys had the same amount of reps as what a varsity player would have been for us in the past. You could see the results today. They could feel their way around the game a bit. It wasn’t so new to them. … The wideouts got as many reps this year as what a James Washington would have got in spring ball during his three springs.”
To round out the scoring, OSU kicked six field goals. Brady Pohl connected on all four of his tries, while Mason Shipley made 2 of 3. Both kickers’ longest kicks were 48 yards,.
“It’s great work for them,” Gundy said. “… With (Alex Hale) not being there, the other guys get put on center stage, so they have to go out and kick in front of a crowd. There’s no rush, but they don’t look at the rush anyway. THey’re out there, people watching them be successful and I thought was a real plus for us today.”