Cowboy receivers have big, physical test against Virginia Tech

Scott Wright The Oklahoman

STILLWATER — On the flight to Orlando for the Camping World Bowl, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was watching tape of Virginia Tech against Florida State in the 2000 Sugar Bowl.

“It’s the same setup on defense,” Gundy said of Virginia Tech.

The Hokies’ defensive coordinator, Bud Foster, has been at Virginia Tech since 1987 and in his current role since 1995.

The basic principles of his defense haven’t changed much in two decades.

The Hokies are allowing 13.5 points per game this season, so what in particular concerns the Cowboys heading into Thursday’s Camping World Bowl?

“They have a great secondary,” redshirt freshman receiver Dillon Stoner said. “Their corners are long, physical guys. The safeties, same thing. They’re great athletes. We’re gonna have to be ready to play.”

Size-wise, this is the biggest secondary OSU has faced all year. Two of the Hokies’ top three cornerbacks are 6-foot-2 or taller and about 200 pounds — body types of safeties in the Big 12. And Virginia Tech’s safeties are just as big, or bigger, and active all over the field.

For the season, Virginia Tech has intercepted 13 passes. Seven of those belong to safety Reggie Floyd with three and cornerback Greg Stroman with four. Stroman — the “small” one in the secondary at 6-0, 181 — leads the team with 15 passes defended and 11 break-ups.

“It’s the best secondary we’ve gone against,” OSU receiver Marcell Ateman said.

With so many big defensive backs, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Ateman could find himself in some challenging situations where his physical nature could come in handy.

Foster tends to favor man-to-man coverage, which could benefit Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver James Washington and the Cowboys’ deep passing game.

OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph has completed 65 percent of his passes this season, while Virginia Tech opponents are completing just 46.9 percent of their throws.

Gundy says the passing game also will be challenged by the defensive front that has accounted for 29 sacks in 12 games.