Commentary

WR fills void after Bryant suspension

Updated: October 29, 2009, 5:35 PM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

North Garland offensive coordinator Todd Waters didn't have to wait long for his phone to ring after Oklahoma State's Hubert Anyiam had a breakout game against Missouri a few weeks ago.

Anyiam, now a sophomore, called his old coach the next day.

"And the first thing he asked is how our team was doing," Waters said. "That's the type of guy he is. He's not a diva wide receiver. He's humble and works hard. I know he'd start playing well as soon as he got a chance to show what he could do."

Anyiam is certainly doing that now. He's stepped up and taken a more active role in the offense since Dez Bryant was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Bryant applied for reinstatement, but the NCAA ruled Tuesday that he will remain ineligible for the rest of the '09 season.

So with one of the top receivers in the country on the sidelines, Anyiam is one of a group of young wideouts gaining valuable experience and taking advantage of an opportunity to impact the outcome of games. They hope to lead the Cowboys to an upset over Texas on Saturday night.

Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that Texas coach Mack Brown would mention Anyiam by name as a player the Longhorns had to watch out for in Saturday's game? But his play the last few weeks has made the UT coaching staff take notice as it puts together the game plan. Anyiam had 10 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in a 33-17 win over Missouri.

"I felt confident," said Anyiam in a phone interview about his performance against Missouri. "I knew someone on our receiving corps would step up without Dez. I just didn't know it would be me."

He followed that up with a team-high nine catches for 83 yards against Baylor. Anyiam now leads the Cowboys in catches per game and yards per game. Not bad for a guy who, until his junior year of high school, wasn't even a wide receiver and figured that basketball might be his chosen sport.

When he started playing football in fourth grade, Anyiam was a running back. But the coaches saw plenty of depth at that position and not enough speedy wide receivers.

"I wanted to get on the field, but I also knew the running backs were way bigger," Anyiam said. "So I switched and learned to run quick slants and break tackles. I learned how to catch the ball in traffic."

Still, Anyiam wasn't sure if he'd be better off concentrating on basketball heading into college. He was the starting point guard.

"But my brothers and friends and coaches told me I needed to stick with football," Anyiam said.

Once Anyiam started getting recruiting letters and calls from college football coaches, he realized he had made the right decision.

"The thing you noticed about him -- even in high school -- was he came off the line hard," Waters said. "When you're in the spread, a lot of guys are jogging to blocks. He came off hard every time. He has great leaping ability, and he's strong and physical. That makes him tough in one-on-one coverage."

Cowboys coach Mike Gundy sees a talented player who should only get better.

"He's very quick and has great speed," Gundy said. "He's done a nice job of getting off the ball and gets open. When the ball's come to him, he's made plays. If he does make the catch and the defender slips or falls down, he can take off and run and has some breakaway speed."

Anyiam hopes to showcase his skills on the big stage when Texas faces Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., for a Saturday night game on national television.

Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail richard.durrett@espn3.com.

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