There is no doubt as this season has progressed that inside receiver Jalen McCleskey has been a major impact player, and Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy admitted that the Cowboys had to make adjustments after losing wide receiver Marcell Ateman.
McCleskey has been a major impact player as he has caught 67 passes for 746 yards and more important seven touchdowns. Gundy explained that losing Ateman was a blow to the Cowboys work in the red zone and score zone. Interestingly, Ateman and McCleskey are two different type receivers in that area of the field with Ateman being a big post-up and go get the ball kind of guy while McCleskey is a little guy whjo can either sneak into a corner or catch a quick pass and use his speed and explosive ability to get to the end zone.
Either way, McCleskey has served a very important role and he is helped at home by extra coaching that Cowboys wide receivers coach Kasey Dunn doesn't mind him getting.
"I know when he goes home he is going to work because his dad is going to coach him up, maybe a couple of times a day," Dunn said.
Jalen's father is former Tennessee standout and NFL veteran cornerback J.J. McCleskey, who does work with a number of top high school players in Louisiana and during breaks in the college schedule with a number of college players looking for the extra edge.
Okay, so who draws the assignment of picking up McCleskey? That could go to several Sooners but likely some of it will fall on strong safety Steven Parker. The hero of last season's late win over TCU with his two-saving defensive play at the end of that contest, the former Jenks All-State performer has 51 total tackles and two interceptions as well as four pass break-ups this season. He is a bigger player at 6-1, 204 pounds.
A battle of speed and mighty mite strength against bigger size and speed could await in the red zone on Saturday and even in the middle of the field at times. This could be a very critical matchup.