Role Play: Where Jalen McCleskey Stands in 2018

Written by Luke A. Garza

Of all the receivers on Oklahoma State’s roster, Jalen McCleskey might have the most to gain in 2018. One of the fastest players on the team, McCleskey had his fair share of ups and downs but remained a steady contributor. He hasn’t missed a game in his career and is always a threat to make a big play after the catch. How much will he contribute in 2018? Let’s take a look.

Oklahoma State’s speedy slot weapon enters his senior season as the most experienced receiver remaining. The departures of James Washington, Marcell Ateman and Chris Lacy will open up spots for others, but McCleskey, the son of former Saints receiver J.J. McCleskey, is undoubtedly the veteran of the group.

Tylan Wallace made some dazzling catches last season and will surely see an increase in playing time. I’m also a big believer of LC Greenwood, a 6-foot-4 outside presence who looked like a man among boys at the high school level. Wallace will be a sophomore and Greenwood will be a redshirt freshman in 2018.

Dylan Stoner and Tyron Johnson will be McCleskey’s main competition for touches. Stoner took McCleskey’s duties at punt returner after a few ill-advised fair catches (and a few decisions to not signal a fair catch), but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Gundy give the senior another go at it. Stoner was proven a safe option, but McCleskey’s ceiling as a returner is higher. He had an electric, 67-yard return touchdown against Texas Tech in 2016 and could be effective if he cleans up those mental mistakes.

McCleskey has proven he can shoulder a heavy load in a high-octane offense. He led the Cowboys – and was third in the Big 12 – with 73 catches in 2016, amassing 812 yards and seven touchdowns.

Regardless of what role – if any – he plays in the return game, and regardless of the competition he faces on his own team, McCleskey looks to be a go-to guy for whomever the Cowboys put under center in 2018. This season will be big for him; it’s his final case to persuade scouts he’s worthy of an NFL Draft pick.

  • SirAwesome

    Did we not red shirt LC Greenwood? They definitely didn’t use Wallace enough to justify not red shirting him. Receiver is the ONE position we should never have to panic and worry about a lack of talent. Coach Dunn has a great eye!

    • Chris Putnam

      I think he did redshirt

    • Bbjd

      LC was redshirted. I disagree with the assessment of Wallace because I don’t think he will be here in 2021 regardless but if he gets to his senior year and isn’t a draft pick I will change my tune.

      • SirAwesome

        I don’t doubt that he will, I am just saying, we didn’t NEED him this season. Our skilled positions are the one surplus we have. I would love for us to give these kids a chance both Mentally and Physically to adapt, ESPECIALLY, when their services aren’t needed. Now I also get, that for us, the caveat may be, “sign and play”, but again, it would be to the benefit of the overall system to be able to red shirt them.

        • Bbjd

          True and I can certainly see that side but benefits also come from having seen game action. I think the boost we will see from having 4 wideouts with exp (Tyron, Stoner, Jalen and Tylan) is probably the best route to go. Also I don’t think people appreciate how damn talented that top 4 is and that ignores how good L.C., Tyrell (who is criminally overlooked), CJ and Shepard are.

    • Chris Stover

      Disagree. We needed to make sure Wallace was ready this year. He got enough snaps to help him get ready.

      • SirAwesome

        You realize that during a red shirt year, he STILL gets to be a part of the offense and actually LEARN which would be more pertinent than wasting his freshman year with none pertinent playing time. Case in point was the Baylor loss Bedlam win WORTH not having Mason for another season since we are now hoping that a true freshman, not arriving until the summer, may have to take over the helm. If Wallace is who we hope he is, we will probably only have him for two seasons as now he will be eligible for the draft by his junior year. It’s time we start thinking about depth and longevity in order to build and succeed. At the deepest position we have, it makes no sense to play a freshman that is not going to crack the STARTING LINEUP!

    • Luke A. Garza

      Yeah, Greenwood redshirted last season. Fixed that part; my mistake.

  • Winning Comment

    I’ll tell you where he’s not standing… PUNT RETURN. Sorry, couldn’t help it. Love the guy — hope he gets his mojo back soon!

  • Bbjd

    Excited to see Jalen role now that Stitt is involved. I think him and Stoner will both have very big years with a new look offense that probably is slightly less reliant on the deep ball.

    • Chris Stover

      Agreed!

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  • Chris Stover

    Yes Greenwood redshirted, also never played a snap at all.

  • Nicholas D.

    Good post; a thoughtful breakdown of the state of the receivers was poignant.