Spring Football Preview: Specialists

We start out simple with our preview as special teams, while getting some attention in the spring, aren't as critical during spring football and will get more attention in fall camp. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy and special teams coordinator Robbie Discher will spend more time on the punt game during the spring.

With the loss of senior punter/kickoff specialist Kip Smith that would make more sense. On each of our previews we will place players in three categories: returning starters, contenders, and waiting to be discovered.

Returning Starters
19 Ben Grogan, PK, Jr., 6-1, 186
54 Josh Elias, Punt Snapper, Sr., 6-0, 200
61 Kaleb Smith, PAT/FG Snapper, So., 6-3, 255

Contenders
29 Zach Sinor, P, RS-Fr., 5-11, 195
59 Matt Hockett, P-PK, RS-Fr., 6-3, 185
7 Brandon Sheperd, PR-KR, Sr., 6-1, 200
13 David Glidden, PR, Sr., 5-7, 185
28 James Washington, PR-KR, So., 6-0, 195

Waiting to be Discovered
5 Jerel Morrow, PR-KR, So., 6-0, 185
18 Ramon Richards, PR-KR, So., 6-0, 185
80 Kameron Doolittle, PR-KR, Sr., 5-8, 200

Ben Grogan returns as the Cowboys kicker, and he may need to add the kickoffs to his repertoire next season. Grogan will have a light spring coming off surgery following the season. Grogan is a proven commodity on field goals having done really well despite some physical situations that caused him to kick through some pain. That should be entirely corrected as he heads toward next season.

The Cowboys are also really solid in the snapping department as transfer Josh Elias came to the rescue last season. He was not only was perfect on the punt snaps but he proved to be a real asset on coverage. He made three tackles that we counted last season and forced a fumble in the bowl game that set the Cowboys up for a field goal in the 30-22 Cactus Bowl win over Washington. Kaleb Smith, who was groomed for the job, did a good job on PAT/field goal snaps.

The biggest question to be answered is punter where Zach Sinor comes off a redshirt season and as a scholarship player is expected to jump in and contend for the position. Norman's Matt Hockett was an All-State kicker that is also a punter.

In practice throughout the fall and the bowl season Sinor and Hockett were competitive with each other. That appears to be what the coaching staff is going after, competition that will push the two candidates and produce the best possible punter for next season.

I don't have to tell Cowboys fans how critical this position is. As of now, Hockett is a little more consistent from what we've seen and Sinor is seemingly capable of the bigger kicks in yards and hang-time. Let the battle begin and may the best man win.

Returns were spectacular again last season thanks to one of the fastest, maybe the fastest Oklahoma State Cowboys football player ever in Tyreek Hill. Hill came up with a punt return for the ages in the Bedlam game in setting the Cowboys up for overtime and the win over OU.

David Glidden, who will not participate with contact in the spring, is an experienced and safe option on punt returns. Brandon Sheperd and sensational sophomore-to-be James Washington are contenders for either kickoff or punt returns. Sheperd has dabbled with it throughout his career and one of his first highlights in front of fans was a kickoff return for a touchdown in his first spring game.

There are three players that I really want to see get some looks for returns. Speedster Jerel Morrow has seen some work in practice with returns. Ramon Richards is so athletic and he certainly looked good on interception returns last season.

Finally, I really think senior walk-on Kameron Doolittle needs to get a serious look with kickoff returns. He is 5-8, 200 pounds and did some returns in high school and at NEO A&M in junior college. This spring he ran 4.4 and he is impressive with a rock-solid build and capable of breaking tackles.

Spring will serve as simply a preview for specialists and special teams with a heavy influence of freshmen and newcomers to be added in August as the special teams get more attention and are finalized.


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