Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Oklahoma State wide receive Tylan Wallace becomes a force in Cowboys offense

MORGANTOWN — The Big 12’s reputation for big-play receivers keeps growing.
The last three Biletnikoff Award winners represented the conference. Since 2007, there has only been one season in which a Big 12 player was not one of the three finalists for the award annually presented to the nation’s top receiver.
So it goes without saying that Big 12 coaches are well aware of the talent the league has seen at the position. Even with that well-established, many believe this is the deepest crop they’ve seen.
“I would say so. You look at the game plan each week and say ‘We’ve got to stop that guy,’ ” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. “You have six or seven guys this year that are outstanding, huge talent. It’s been impressive to watch.”
There are four Big 12 receivers among the 11 semifinalists for this year’s Biletnikoff, including West Virginia’s David Sills. But the talent is so overflowing that it’s almost unbelievable to consider who didn’t make the cut.
Not Gary Jennings Jr., who is second in the league with 10 touchdown receptions. Not Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler, who leads the nation with 22 yards per catch. And not Texas’ Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who can count a pair of circus catches against West Virginia among his 63 this season.
“It’s Big 12 football, it’s fun,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. “The offenses are pretty good. Quarterback play is pretty good. Somebody has to catch all of those balls, and it’s as good as I’ve seen it. I probably wouldn’t have thought that prior to the year, but nobody knew who they were yet.”
Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace is the latest revelation at the position that will pose a problem for West Virginia this week. After a trio of monster games, Wallace stands third in the country with 1,282 receiving yards. He went off for 222 yards against Texas, 122 against Baylor and 220 against Oklahoma on a combined 28 catches.
Trailing by seven and facing a late fourth-and-12 against the Sooners, Wallace squeezed between two defenders for a bruising touchdown catch.
“Once they called the play and I saw what coverage it was, I realized it was my ball because that’s the exact coverage we worked on in practice,” he said. “I was like, ‘OK, this is me. I just have to make sure I do everything right, make sure I run my route right, make sure when he throws it to me that I hold on to it and get into the end zone.’ Once I had it, I had make sure I held on to it because I got hit at the end of that.”
The sophomore’s rapid rise made replacing 2017 Biletnikoff winner James Washington easier than expected for the Cowboys.
“That’s all on him. He did it all,” said OSU quarterback Taylor Cornelius. “He’s an unbelievable player.”
Coach Mike Gundy said Wallace is ahead of the pace Justin Blackmon and Washington set during their second seasons.
“He is further ahead of guys that we’ve had that have won the award and it’s not even close,” Gundy said. “He is tough, competitive, unselfish and he is willing to do whatever we ask him to do. He will go block, he is not just a receiver. If you go ask him to block, he will take pride in it.”

Wallace is a much different animal than receivers like Butler and Humphrey, who used their massive frames to snag jumpballs out of the air over West Virginia defensive backs. Only 6-feet tall, Wallace becomes a weapon after the ball is in his hands.
“I don’t know how he does it, but he contorts his body,” said West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, whose unit ranks 73rd nationally against the pass. “He’s unbelievable, and you look back on it and you think, ‘What did we miss on this kid last year?’ I think he had seven catches a year ago. That’s a big turnaround that kid has had.”
Indeed, Wallace was barely visible for Oklahoma State as a freshman, catching seven passes for 118 yards. His unexpected breakthrough helps explain why senior Jalen McCleskey decided to transfer after four games so he could be able to play elsewhere next year.
West Virginia’s secondary knows Wallace’s set of skills is unique even among the talented receivers they’ve already faced.
“Wallace is just a great athlete. He’s alert,” said West Virginia safety Dravon Askew-Henry. “Wherever he’s at on the field, we’ve got to know where he’s at.”
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