STILLWATER – When Quinn Sharp arrived at Oklahoma State three years ago, he immediately informed special teams coordinator Joe DeForest he wanted all three kicking jobs.
Rated the nation's best high school kicker, Sharp was seeking employment as the Cowboys' punter, place-kicker and kickoff man. Trouble was, OSU already had two future national award-winning kickers on its roster.
Sharp redshirted the 2008 season while Matt Fodge won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top collegiate punter.
Placekicker Dan Bailey became the most prolific scorer in school history (370 points), won last year's Lou Groza Award and is now a rookie battling for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys' roster.
Sharp has handled punting and kickoff duties the past two seasons. He has excelled at both.
The redshirt junior finished second nationally last season with a 46.2-yard punt average and a long of 78 yards. Sharp has a career average of 45.6 yards-per-punt with 41 for more than 50 yards and 12 for more than 60 yards.
His kickoff numbers are astounding, having led the nation in touchbacks the last two seasons with 35 in 2009 and 53 last year.
Standing in the way of Sharp pulling triple-duty are redshirt freshman walk-on Bobby Stonebraker and true freshman Matt Green.
“The placekicking job is still up for grabs,” DeForest said.
Although he is confident Sharp is physically capable of all three roles, and preseason practice results are pointing to him doing it all, DeForest is wrestling with the mental demands Sharp would face.
“How is he going to react if he misses a field goal the next time he has to punt it, or if he shanks a punt and next time he misses a field goal?” DeForest said. “How can he handle it mentally? That's what I've always been scared of, but we've talked about that all spring, all summer.
“If he's the best guy, he's going to do it, but there are some delicate issues that people don't realize. They only think of the physical part.”
Sharp nodded when told of DeForest's comments.
“You have to let things go,” Sharp said. “You can't let things like that affect you. I learned that in high school, but it's definitely different in college, a lot faster pace. It's just a whole different world, really. You have to be mentally tough. You have to let something go. You can't dwell on it because it will affect your next kick.
“There aren't many schools where you find someone doing all three. Even in the pros, you won't find it. It's just that hard to do all three and keep your conditioning up and stay strong for the whole season.”
There are physical demands to doing all three, particularly playing for the high-scoring Cowboys.
If OSU was a poor offensive team, Sharp could be used primarily as a punter. But the Cowboys averaged 44.2 points last season and are expected to score in the same neighborhood again this year.
All those PATs and converted field goals are immediately followed by kickoffs, which can get exhausting.
“The most fatigue I get is from kickoffs,” Sharp said. “I can do field goals and punts all day, but when it comes to kickoffs, that's where I feel I use the most exertion, just because I want to get a touchback every time. When it comes to field goals and punts, I don't think it takes too much out of me. Then again, I haven't done all three for a full season, so I don't really know how it goes.”
If Sharp wins this three-legged race, he will be on the field at the end of every OSU possession – except turnovers, losing the ball on downs or time expiring.
“He's got a remarkable leg,” DeForest said. “His hang time has been unbelievable these first few days of practice. He's outstanding, but he's also fresh because it's early.”
That Sharp volunteered for this multitasking is no surprise. Never known to back down from a challenge, Sharp would try to beat out Brandon Weeden for the starting quarterback spot if OSU coaches would allow it.
“You have to handle these guys in different ways, but I don't know how to handle Quinn as a coach when it comes to field goals,” DeForest said. “That's something I have to learn.”
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