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Position Preview: OSU Needs to Bounce Back on Special Teams in 2018

Can OSU make up ground in that third, crucial phase of the game?

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As we continue our preview of OSU position groups, we land on one of the most important, yet least talked about. The Cowboys had a special teams problem in 2017; they can’t afford one in 2018.

CB DL | WR | LB | OL | S | RB

Incoming in 2019: Tom Hutton (P)
Projected starters: Matt Hocket (P), Matt Ammendola (K), Jake McClure (KO), Sam Walkingstick (LS), LD Brown (KR), Dillon Stoner (PR)
Projected backups: Jake McClure (P2), Matt Hockett (K2), Landon Wolf (KR2), Tylan Wallace (PR2)

Player I’m most excited about: Tylan Wallace. Maybe it’s because he’s a new face (Wallace did get credited for one fair catch on a punt last year). Maybe it’s his blue-chip pedigree that makes me believe Mike Gundy is just trying to get something going in the return game.

I need some kind of kick returned for a score like I need some Thai Loco in my hands before kickoff. Wallace is the first name that screams athleticism and promise in my mind, so I went with him. Please somebody play highlights of Perrish Cox/Justin Gilbert/ Josh Stewart for these guys.

Player who has the opportunity to surprise: Matt Hockett. I’m not sure how much of a shock he will be to you specialist nuts out there, but the redshirt senior performed well when called upon last year. He’s OSU’s guy, at least while Zach Sinor recovers from offseason surgery.

Hockett kicked a 43-yard punt to Tulsa in the season opener and then, after Zach Sinor had a less-than-stellar performance in Morgantown, Hockett came in and booted one ball 49 yards which was downed at the West Virginia 3-yard line.

What concerns me about this group: If you look at last year’s special teams performance on the whole, it’s hard not to be concerned. Oklahoma State finished ranked 126th out of 130 teams in ESPN’s special teams efficiency rating, and it spent part of the year ranked last.

OSU took a noticeable, somewhat head-scratching step back in the punting game from 2016 to 2017. As far as accuracy, touchback avoidance and opponent’s starting field position, Zach Sinor was the most effective punter in the nation in 2016. If he can return to form, and OSU can finally find a playmaker in the return game, things could be looking up.

Keep an eye on: Jake McClure, the redshirt freshman from Chattanooga, Tennessee who came in as a highly-touted kicker/punter. He has been tabbed as the Cowboys’ kickoff man. OSU has not been able to consistently kick the ball into the end zone since Quinn Sharp’s glorious locks flowed on the sidelines.

This should be aided by the NCAA rule change that allows teams to fair catch a kickoff inside their 25-yard line. This is just another step, like the 2012 rule change that moved the tee from the 30-yard line to the 35, to increase touchbacks and eliminate one of the most dangerous plays in the game.

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