Russell Brown and I sat down for a film session interview with Oklahoma State WR Dillon Stoner this past week. He is a highly productive fifth-year senior who finished his college career with 191 catches for 2,378 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also did a little bit in the return game as he totaled 372 yards on punt returns in his career.
To start this interview, I actually jumped back to Stoner’s high school days with a question. I did some research and noticed that he played defensive back, wide receiver, punter, and kick returner while winning four state championships in football while also being a state champion in track for the 400-meter run. So I started by asking him about his high school experience prior to Oklahoma State:
“I can’t imagine it going much better for me. It was great and I was surrounded by a lot of great coaches and great guys so I couldn’t have enjoyed my high school experience any more than I did.”
Russ jumped in after this and asked Stoner if he was recruited for track out of high school and if he ever considered doing it in college:
“Not as much. I think everyone knew I was really focused on football and that was what I wanted to do. Track I had a very love-hate relationship with it. Looking back and it was fun but I don’t miss it quite…. at all really. I don’t miss it at all (laughs).”
Lastly, I asked him about being a team captain for Oklahoma State the last two years and what it meant to him to have that honor:
“It was picked by the players and that was a huge honor for me. It meant a lot to me and I loved getting to know and grow closer to all those guys over the years and that was the most special award that I have ever won.”
(Since Russ and I will be each be asking questions below, I separated how you all know which one is us. If the question has a ZH before it, then it is me. RB means it is Russ, and italics are Stoner’s responses)
ZH: “So you are lined up in the slot here and have off man coverage on the crosser when you use a stair step (marked in the clip) to create separation at the top of your route. Is that something you all are taught to use to create space in you routes?”
“Yeah I think this ends up being a little bit more than a man route but we are taught to go over one and under two so I would go under the Sam backer across from me and over the Mike to find space but when it is a man route the stair step helps a lot to flip his hips and create separation for an outlet.”
ZH: “There are a lot of nuances when it comes to route running that a player out of high school just doesn’t fully understand. How have you grown in that aspect of your game from your freshman year to now?”
“Tremendously. Starting out I was mainly in the slot and over the years I got to work more outside, especially this past year. Also being able to watch guys like Tylan Wallace, James Washington, Chris Lacey, and Marcell Ateman and study things from their game to apply to my game just helped me a bunch.”
RB: “Yeah I was going to ask about that because it seemed as this year went on, you started playing more on the outside. In the bowl game you had 57 snaps out wide, according to Pro Football Focus. With that, when you are watching NFL players, do you pay attention to certain outside guys and then some slot guys or do you have set of players that you just like to watch?
“There is certainly a handful of guys I like to watch and they all move around from inside to outside. In college the inside is more recognizing coverage and adjusting off that where on the outside it is a lot more one-on-one matchups, so playing a bit a both this last year really helped me gain experience in both of those areas for the next level.”
ZH: “A big part of playing receiver is the little details that fantasy football players hate to talk about. This clip is a perfect example of you laying a great block in space. In the meetings for plays like this, are you told whether to chop block or stalk block on certain plays or do you have that autonomy to make that call for yourself?”
“The rules kind of changed, especially this past year. In the past you were able to chop ten yards down the field (which was allowed in this clip here) while going to the outside where this year, it was only like five yards was the window to do it and you had to hit them in a certain frame or they’d penalize you. So while this past year was tough with those rules, if a guy is flying down you’d want to chop but otherwise you are squaring the guy up and stalk blocking.”
ZH: “Not to say it in a way that is disparaging in any way to you but you know that you probably aren’t going in those first few rounds in this draft. However we have seen plenty of players make in this league as late round guys and UDFA’s due to little things like special teams or blocking. Have those been areas you have been working at these past few years so you can make it in the NFL?”
“Yeah no doubt. I am a very realistic guy and I understand that I am not going to be a first couple round guy and that’s okay because I like having that chip on my shoulder and I know I have to take those positions and those roles more serious than others. I love it though. I love blocking and I feel like it is something I have worked on over the years and same with special teams so as long as I am in a position where I can help a team win, I’m going to be happy”
RB: “So you played for WR Coach Kasey Dunn, who was one of the most productive FCS receivers in the history of college football and I wanted know what kind of emphasis did he put towards the aspect of blocking?”
“It was a huge emphasis to us. There weren’t too many practices where we didn’t work on practice fundamentals as receivers. We understood that when receivers are put in a position to block, your effort can either make or break the play so we put a lot of emphasis on it. In this clip, we have the option to pick up the outside linebacker or get up to the safety. The thing he always said was just get it started and find work on every play and he stressed that every day.”
ZH: “In this clip, you are lined up in press coverage to the top of the screen on the deep fade. How do you personally like to attack press coverage?”
“So we would basically classify corners as either a mirror guy, a motor guy, or a bully guy. A motor will give you some ground and pedal out, a mirror will try to match you, and a bully wants to get their hands on you. Leading up to the game it is really that film study that tells you how to attack it like against a bully you don’t want to dance around or expose your chest or you’ll get clamped. The other two guys you can work into a bit and get big before releasing and with what we saw prior to this match-up, we felt we could hit on some big plays.”
RB: “What would you say is the most consistent way you like to attack press? Do you like to get big and be physical or break them down at the top and go from there?”
“Hands were such a big thing, especially if you were going to take a guy outside and throw them by to cut back to the inside. Obviously feet and getting off the line and breaking guys down are big but I’d have to say winning with your hands because that is the whole second half of that.”
ZH: “Really nice concentration catch over the shoulder here too at the end of the play. Do you all simulate situations like this in practice and work on these type of plays?”
“Yeah that was a drill that we worked fairly often. We worked on three separate catches from sweep, going up to get it, and going over the shoulder. It was always preached to the quarterbacks and preached to the receivers to put your body in a position for your quarterback to drop it in there so all of those things are aspects we repped quite a bit.”
ZH: “I love this clip because it shows off your speed down the sideline but also because this safety is way out of his league on this route. What was your reaction when you saw him step up like that on your deep fade route?”
“Well I knew the big thing here was to avoid the collision and use my hands so that was what I was thinking the second he rolled down. The second I was able to get past him, Drew Brown was able to throw a perfect ball and I was able to run under it and get a nice little gain there.”
ZH: “Do you guys work on that arm over move when breaking contact down the field with defenders?”
“Yeah definitely and it’s all about timing too. If you are early then it is going to be a whiff and if you are late then they can get a good hold of you and disrupt the route. There is a lot of timing that goes into that with practice.”
RB: “What is your favorite route to run?”
“I love the fade especially because there are so many different things you can do with it. There’s back-shoulder, run under it, jump ball.. I just like all the possibilities of the route. Just a really fun route to run.”
RB: “So you just want to moss somebody, I get it. Do you talk a lot of shit on the field?”
“You know.. I usually don’t start it. If they start chirping then I won’t hesitate to go after them but I typically don’t go out of my way to get on them.”
We then proceeded to laugh about wide receiver victim mentality and the fact that Stoner is certainly the type who would run his mouth and talk smack (this is sarcasm by the way).
To end off this interview, Russ had a two things he wanted to ask Stoner before we signed off.
RB: “One thing that was consistent throughout your career was your legendary Head Coach Mike Gundy. What was it like playing for him in your career?”
“It was good, man. I just saw that he was going into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame this year but yeah it was an honor. Obviously, he has been successful for a long time and being able to watch him from a young age to playing for him for five years was just awesome. I can’t imagine it going any other way.”
RB: “And finally, where can the good people checking this out follow you on social media?”
“On Twitter, I think I am just @Dillon_Stoner and then on Instagram I am DillonStoner14 for my first football number so maybe I should update that (laughs).