As we put a bow on the our spring preview series, we turn to the ever-important but often under-valued specialists. The Cowboys lost a record-setting place kicker, return one of the nation’s top punters and are still looking for an answer in the return game.
Let’s dive in.
Let’s start at that place kicker spot vacated by OSU’s all-time points scorer, Ben Grogan. As far as spring camp goes, the Cowboys only have two kickers listed on the roster. Strong-legged 2017 signee Jake McClure will join the Cowboys this fall after he finishes his senior year of high school.
But there’s already a kicker with a big leg on campus. Matt Ammendola was a redshirt freshman a year ago. “Philly” as his head coach calls him turned around OSU’s kickoff game as he took over that side of the kicking duties from Ben Grogan. The previous year, Grogan’s efforts gave the Cowboys touchbacks on just 24 percent of their kickoffs. Ammendola nearly doubled that number as the Cowboys touchback percentage climbed to 47 percent.
Ammendola did attempt one field goal last season, as well. A 53-yarder. Which he made.
Max Allan, last year’s backup kickoff specialist is not on the spring roster. Kevin Mahon is a redshirt senior transfer from Tarrant County CC who is currently designated as a practice squad contributor but should get some burn in the spring game on April 15.
Zach Sinor is the clear starter as far as punting duties are concerned. He was the most effective punter in the country as a sophomore in 2016. He looks to build on his legacy in his redshirt junior season.
Matt Hockett will also get reps in the spring game. The redshirt junior is pegged for the practice squad but has spent time as a backup punter and has backed up in kickoffs over his time at OSU.
In a group of unheralded positions, they are the probably the most forgotten. Basically, we don’t hear their names unless they screw up or make some incredible play (see Josh Elias in the Cactus Bowl). Last season, a couple of freshmen jockeyed back and forth for reps at long snapper. They will both get plenty of burn this spring.
After a string of extremely effective return men, OSU has hit a bit of a dry spell these last couple of years. Below is a look at the return scores since 2008. Notice the drop off after Tyreek Hill left. (One of those in 2015 was Miketavius Jones’ blocked punt/recovery.)
Does OSU have the next Josh Stewart or Justin Gilbert on their roster? The absolute embarrassment of riches we call Oklahoma State’s receiver corps could provide an answer. You can be sure that finding the answer is one of Gundy and Co.’s top priorities this spring.