A big opportunity
Former SMU wideout confident he'll exceed measurables in NFL
Posted on 05/22/2012 by PonyFans.com
Former SMU star Cole Beasley is one of at least seven players vying for four or five spots on the 2012 Dallas roster (photo by PonyFans.com).
He might not want to admit it, but for former SMU wide receiver Cole Beasley, the start of his professional career is a lot like the start of his college career.

When he signed with the Mustangs four years ago out of Little Elm High School, the skeptics emerged right away. Sure, he had been a productive option quarterback and defensive back in high school, but generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, would he be able to survive the rigors of college football?

Beasley did more than survive. The former quarterback and coach’s son showed quickly that he more than belonged on the field with his new team. As a true freshman in 2008, he finished third on the SMU team with 42 catches, and showed a knack for finding seams in opposing defenses and shaking would-be defenders with subtle fakes and an uncanny ability to stop, change directions and accelerate quickly. Most importantly, he showed exceptional hands, catching almost every pass within reach.

By the time end of his senior year, Beasley had established himself as one of the most productive receivers in the history of a school that has produced NFL receivers like Raymond Berry, Ron Morris, Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson. He had seasons with 87 and 86 receptions, the second- and third-highest single-season receptions totals in SMU history. He finished second all-time with 255 career catches and third with 2,959 career receiving yards — not bad for a guy who wasn’t supposed to be big enough to play in college.

Despite his stellar numbers, Beasley went undrafted this spring, and ended up signing as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, where he finds himself facing similar questions. His listed height on the Cowboys’ roster — 5-8 — also is a tad generous, adding one-eighth of an inch to the height he measured at SMU’s Pro Day, meaning he once again is the smallest player on the field with his new team.

But as was the case when he arrived at SMU, Beasley is intent upon showing that his diminutive stature means nothing. The Cowboys, who start their first OTA (Organized Team Activity) Tuesday, carried six receivers on their active roster for most games last year, but begin preparation for the 2012 season with just two spots — those belonging to veterans Miles Austin and Dez Bryant — locked up. At the team’s recent rookie mini-camp, Beasley said he sees no reason he can’t compete for a roster spot.

“I’m really confident in my ability,” he said. “Even though I’m smaller, I feel like I’m just as good (as the other receivers at the rookie mini-camp). A lot of it is about who wants it more, and I’m going to compete as hard as anyone. I’ve got to make catches and I’ve got to contribute on special teams, especially as a free agent. They have had me catching punts, and blocking the gunner a little. I didn’t really do that at SMU, so I have to work on that. I have to get more physical and get stronger.

“Obviously, I want to play receiver, but I’ll do whatever I have to do to get on the field.”

Beasley finished his senior season ranked second in SMU history with 255 career receptions and third all-time with 2,959 receiving yards (photo by PonyFans.com).
Making those receptions at the rookie mini-camp was difficult, as the quarterbacks Dallas brought in — Nathan Dick of Arkansas and Larry Smith of Vanderbilt — struggled with their accuracy. But when the ball was near him, Beasley repeatedly made the reception, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Dallas wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, who said he first noticed Beasley at the team’s “Dallas Day” workout for local college players.

“We had him here at on Dallas Day, and he really stood out with his quickness and his route running,” Robinson said. “He knows how to play the game — that’s obvious when you watch his games or even when you watch him in practice. He has great instincts and a lot of heart to go along with his ability.”

Barring injury, Austin and Bryant are on the 2012 Dallas roster. In order to make the team, Beasley will compete against a group of receivers that includes holdovers Dwayne Harris, Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes and Raymond Radway, as well as Danny Coale, the team’s fifth-round draft choice out of Virginia Tech who, like Beasley, drew rave reviews at the team’s rookie mini-camp. In other words, there are at least six candidates for four — or possibly five — roster spots, but Beasley is undaunted by the number and size of candidates for the jobs.

“Dwayne Harris (5-10, 208) doesn’t have prototypical size, either,” Beasley said. “But he’s here because he makes plays, not because of how tall he is. That’s what I have to do, too. It can happen — I have just got to play big. I have to make plays when I have my chance.”

One aspect of the NFL game in which Beasley’s size will work against him is in blocking, but he has no intention of shirking his duty in that part of the game.

“Some people look at me and think I can’t block, but I can be more physical than you think,” Beasley said. “Blocking is all about ‘want to’ and hitting your opponent when you don’t get caught in a mismatch. We put in plays (in the rookie mini-camp) where I come down and block the (defensive) end, just like we did at SMU. You have to have ‘want to’ and not be lazy.

His new position coach acknowledged that there is a crowd of players competing for roster spots, and when pressed, said he wasn’t sure if a player of Beasley’s size had ever made a team he coached, but he quickly reaffirmed that Beasley deserves to be in camp with the Cowboys and can play at the professional level.

“He’s not a big guy, but he has great quickness and athletic ability,” Robinson said. “I don’t think there’s any question he has the talent to play in this league.”

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