Jalen McCleskey Makes Hornung Award List

Sophomore Jalen McCleskey is one of just nine sophomores selected to the watch list for the 2016 Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the most versatile player in major college football.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Jalen McCleskey is one of 43 players on the 2016 Watch List for the Paul Hornung Award, the Louisville Sports Commission announced Friday. The Hornung Award, presented by Texas Roadhouse, is given annually to the most versatile player in major college football.

Criteria include playing multiple positions, starting as a position player and playing a significant role on special teams, performing as a two-­way player, demonstrating a high ­level of versatility at one position on a regular basis and making a significant impact in multiple roles during big games.

The young player from Covington, Louisiana and St. Paul's High School has certainly demonstrated those traits in just a single season at Oklahoma State. Last season as a freshman, he eventually earned his way into starting status at the slot where he caught 29 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. He was also an answer to how the Cowboys made up for the lack of a strong conventional running attack as he ran for 25 yards on four carries on mainly reverses that kept defenses off balance.

He also returned punts where he showed his bravery by fielding almost every punt with few fair catches. He had a major return for a touchdown of 67 yards in the come-from-behind win at Texas Tech.

On top of that, Cowboys receivers coach Kasey Dunn will tell you he is a gym rat of a player that loves football, which is likely passed on by his father, former NFL and Tennessee defensive back J.J. McCleskey. Dunn likes to talk about how Jalen goes home and gets worked out as hard or harder than he does at Oklahoma State.

"His dad has my permission to work with him. That is one of the reasons he came to Oklahoma State as a freshman ready to play. When he's at home I know he's up early in the morning working out with his dad and then I think, no, I know they go back and do it again in the afternoon," Dunn said. "That family loves football."

McCleskey is one of just nine sophomores on the watch list, while the remaining 34 candidates are upperclassmen. He is also one of just three players from the Big 12 included on the list. As a true freshman last year, McCleskey assumed the role as Oklahoma State's primary punt returner and was also a regular at wide receiver. As one of the fastest players on the roster, OSU coaches honored him with the Russell Okung Award for the team's outstanding newcomer.

A panel of college football experts will create an award candidate list of approximately 10­15 players based on performance during the season. The Paul Hornung Award Selection Committee chooses the finalists and ultimately the winner from the candidate list. The finalists will be announced Nov. 17 and the winner will be announced Dec. 7. Fan voting will open in late September and will be conducted online at votepaulhornung.com. It will account approximately 6 percent of the overall vote.

The winner and his family will be honored at the annual Paul Hornung Award Banquet downtown Louisville in February 2017.

 2016 Watch List Selections

Ishmael Adams, UCLA

Victor Bolden Jr., Oregon State

Antonio Callaway, Florida

Seth Collins, Oregon State

Jared Cornelius, Arkansas

Tim Crawley, San Jose State

DeVon Edwards, Duke

Brisly Estime, Syracuse

Johnathan Ford, Auburn

Janarion Grant, Rutgers

Nyheim Hines, NC State

Brandon Holloway, Mississippi State

Adoree’ Jackson, USC

D’Ernest Johnson, South Florida

Quay Johnson, East Carolina

Xavier Johnson, South Alabama

Corey Jones, Toledo

Desmond King, Iowa

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

Donovan Lee, Colorado

William Likely, Maryland

Jalen McCleskey, Oklahoma State

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

Elijah McGuire, Louisiana Lafayette

Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia

Charles Nelson, Oregon

Zach Pascal, Old Dominion

Rashaad Penny, San Diego State

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Darius Phillips, Western Michigan

Trevor Ryen, Iowa State

Artavis Scott, Clemson

R.J. Shelton, Michigan State

Cameron Sutton, Tennessee

Ryan Switzer, North Carolina

Jahad Thomas, Temple

Aregeros Turner, Northern Illinois

KaVontae Turpin, TCU

Tim White, Arizona State

Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

Brandon Wilson, Houston

Dontre Wilson, Ohio State

Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia

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