How Are OSU's Special Teams Shaping Up?

Robbie Discher is not all that recognizable. The Cowboys special teams coordinator can walk down the street and hardly get a second glance. A former full-time assistant at Sam Houston State where he helped the three-time FCS powerhouse make it to the championship game, Discher wanted to climb the ladder to Division I FBS and power conference football.

He did and he landed on top last season when, a website for coaching rumors that also honors college position coaches, named him their FBS Special Teams Coordinator of the Year. Oklahoma State was 35th in the country in punt returns, one of the best punt cover units in the nation, perfect on extra points, and 22-of-28 on field goals with a kicker that was injured.

"[Ben's] healthy now. A lot of people don't realize that last year he played with a torn labrum in his hip, his kicking hip which is a big deal," Discher explained of Ben Grogan's injury that was known within the team, hinted in public, but not really detailed until now.

"He never made an excuse out of it when he missed a kick and you appreciate that as a coach. He is healthy and full speed. It took awhile to rehab it and he had the surgery right after the bowl game. Last year he didn't kick off but he's got a strong enough leg to do so. He'll have a chance to do so and that is one of our big emphasis in fall camp is to find a guy to kickoff."

While Grogan is back for his junior season and coming back not only from the injury but also a confident building short field goal that won the Bedlam game in overtime. Grogan could very well be in contention for All-Big 12 kicker.

Punting is where the vacancy is for Discher and the Cowboys.

"Obviously, guys like Kip (Smith) are hard to replace as he started on two and specialists are the most important part of your special teams as they are like quarterbacks to your offense. We have some good guys coming in and we will have good competition and I think something that will really help us this year is that we have more depth on defense and you'll be able to see us play guys tht start on one or two of our units where last year we weren't able to do that.

"We lose some guys that were very important to us last year and we gain some guys. Miketavius Jones comes back and he wasn't eligible until the bowl game last year and we will have a lot of guys step up and there is no reason we can't be better. We have leaders back on our special teams like Jeremy Seaton and Kameron Doolittle."

You can see where Discher's mind is working. If you don't have the punter back then at least think and count on the guys that cover the punts and are back. The first step is getting the punt away and a scholarship redshirt freshman and All-State punter from Texas is first in line for the job, but he is not the only option. Discher has stacked up a few.

"(Zach) Sinor is a very good punter and he is very good at directional punting and hang-time," Discher said. "You can tell he was coached at punting before he got here. If he ends up winning the job, he is a guy we have confidence in. He could have a really good career here.

"Another guy competing for it is Matt Hockett, a local guy from Norman North (High School). He is very valuable to us in that he is our backup kicker, backup punter, and could be our kickoff guy or will be the backup there too. He can do all three. Another local kid is Lane Reazin from Woodward and in high school he played offense, defense, and was the punter. He has never really been able to focus on punting because he was the do everything guy. You will see him improve immensely over the next year or so."

An interesting facet of Reazin's play is that he is athletic. He played quarterback and safety, so his presence could inspire some real opportunities with fake punts. He is also a two-style punter that can sit back and punt with a traditional technique or he is also a rugby punter that can roll out and kick on the run. That is some unconventional stuff that we haven't seen at Oklahoma State, but besides being very encouraging and supportive of special teams, head coach Mike Gundy is open to new ideas.

"The best thing we do is that coach Gundy puts a big emphasis on special teams and we spend a lot of time on it," Discher added. "I would say we spend more practice and meeting time than most teams in the country.

"He is in every meeting and if I leave something out or he wants to say something he gets up and says it and he coaches hard on special teams. Guys see that and they buy in because when it is important to the head coach then it is important to the players."

Finally, the area in special teams that I get asked about the most, the area fans get most cranked up about, is returns. Tyreek "Cheetah" Hill is gone and that means new faces back on returns. Discher is putting a lot of time and thought into what happens next and it could be some new faces.

"We have a number of guys that are competing and they have been catching and returning kicks and punts this summer," he said. "You mentioned Brandon Sheperd and obviously he started in the bowl game at punt and kick returner.

"James Washington got some reps last year in games and there are a number of guys that are going to get a shot like a couple of freshmen in (Jeff) Carr) and (Jalen) McCleskey, Ramon Richards, who played last year and got some reps in the spring on returns. David Glidden has been working hard at it."

Special teams have stayed special at Oklahoma State throughout the Gundy era and I predict they will be special again. Here is my guess at the depth chart and who will win the specialist chores for the upcoming season at Oklahoma State.

Ben Grogan, 6-1, 186, Jr., Arlington (Martin), Texas
Matt Hockett, 6-3, 195, RS-Fr., Norman (North), Okla.
Matt Ammendola, 5-10, 185, Fr., Lansdale (North Penn), Pa.

Matt Hockett, 6-3, 195, RS-Fr., Norman (North), Okla.
Ben Grogan, 6-1, 186, Jr., Arlington (Martin), Texas
Matt Ammendola, 5-10, 185, Fr., Lansdale (North Penn), Pa.

Zach Sinor, 5-11, 195, RS-Fr., Castroville (Medina Valley), Texas
Matt Hockett, 6-3, 195, RS-Fr., Norman (North), Okla.
Lane Reazin, 6-2, 211, Fr., Woodward, Okla.

Deep Snapper
Josh Elias, 6-0, 200, Sr., San Jose (Valley Christian), Calf./Univ.of Arizona (punts)
Kaleb Smith, 6-3, 255, So., Fort Worth (All Saints Episcopal), Texas (placements)

Bryant Reber, 6-0, 185, Sr., Leawood (Blue Valley), Kan.

Kickoff Returns
Brandon Sheperd, WR, 6-1, 195, Sr., St, Louis (Parkway Central), Mo.
Jeff Carr, RB, 5-7, 178, Fr., Temple, Texas
James Washington, WR, 6-0, 200, So., Stamford, Texas
Jalen McCleskey, WR, 5-10, 164, Fr., Covington (St. Paul's), La.

Punt Returns
Jeff Carr, 5-7, 178, Fr., Temple, Texas
Brandon Sheperd, WR, 6-1, 195, Sr., St, Louis (Parkway Central), Mo.
David Glidden, WR, 5-8, 185, Sr., Mustang, Okla.

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