At Oklahoma State, playmakers wanted

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Oklahoma State's new offense will be heavily reliant on playmakers. Identifying who those are could be simpler than its sounds.

“Anybody that’s going to take the time to learn the system and can make a play with the ball in their hands will get a chance,” coach Mike Gundy said.

Added offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who’s busy installing his system this spring:

“We get the ball to people that make things happen. I don’t care what position they line up at. We try to get it to everybody,” said offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. “There’s five spots and we try to get it to all five, but the guys that make things happen after it’s in their hand are going to get it more than the other guys.”

Chief among those is shifty running back Kendall Hunter, who Gundy said could touch the ball 250 times as a senior. After leading the Big 12 in rushing as a sophomore, he struggled in 2009. His yards per carry averaged dropped by more than two yards and an ankle injury kept him out of five games. When he did play, he never topped 75 yards in a game.

“Last year was a tough year, because I wanted to be out there helping my team, just the injuries were kind of holding me back a little bit,” Hunter said.

He’s healthy now, and his coaches seem intent on getting him the ball.

“I think he’s very excited,” Gundy said. “For him to have the opportunity to have to touch the ball in space, I think is an advantage for our offense, but its also an advantage for him.”

If he doesn’t get the ball, Gundy said it won’t be for lack of opportunity. If Hunter doesn’t show himself as one of those playmakers, he’ll turn to backups Jeremy Smith or Travis Miller.

Cowboys receivers will get the ball in a different system with similar personnel. Dez Bryant lit up defenses in his first three games, but forced his teammates to grow up quickly after he was suspended for the final 10 games 2009 for lying to the NCAA about his relationship with Deion Sanders.

“Once the middle of the season up through the bowl game, they became primary receivers,” Gundy said. “That experience should help them a lot going into this season.”

Junior Hubert Anyiam caught 42 passes last season, 36 in the final eight games. Sophomore Justin Blackmon finished with 20 catches, as did junior Josh Cooper, who caught 10 of his 20 passes in the final four games of 2009.

“The thing I’m excited about is we’ve got some competition going on at each spot,” Holgorsen said, adding that both the receivers and running backs’ ball skills were better than he’d anticipated. “With competition, there’s a level of, ‘You’ve got to come every day ready to go.’ We got about eight guys right now competing for the top two spots, and the thing that I’m excited about even more than the competition is they’re all young.

“It’s going to be that way for a couple years.”