STILLWATER – Quinn Sharp's vast array of skills resembles a football version of the Swiss Army Knife.
Punter. Kickoff man. Point-after and field goal specialist. Sharp even ran for a 23-yard gain and a first down last year against Arizona, probably one of his proudest moments as a Cowboy.
With Sharp, the Big 12's reigning Special Teams Player of the Year, there always seems to be another tool for some special occasion.
Like now, with the NCAA seemingly marginalizing his mighty advantage on kickoffs, instituting a new rule that makes it easier for all kickers to reach the end zone – an area previously dominated by Sharp – moving the ball from the 30-yard line to the 35.
So the Oklahoma State senior might be debuting his latest tool: the “Sky Kick.”
While the new rule results in touchbacks bringing the ball to the 25-yard line, the extra five yards of field position don't figure to dissuade most teams from kicking the ball into or through the end zone whenever possible.
But most teams don't have Sharp, whose powerful right leg can apparently be put to use lofting high kickoffs just outside the goal line, presenting his coverage team with a chance at swarming enemy return men deep in their own territory.
“You saw some NFL teams do the sky kick (last season) and approach the corners and stuff,” Sharp said. “It's not a bad idea.”
It is, however, a dilemma for Cowboys coach Mike Gundy.
Sharp has led the nation in touchbacks each of his three years at OSU, highlighted by last year's total of 61, which were 23 more than his closest competitor.
Giving him an additional five yards is like moving Tiger Woods up to the senior tees.
“I have reservations about ever telling him to do anything other than just kick it as hard as he can,” Gundy said. “We have discussed different things to do, and we have that capability. We're not for sure what we're going to do, based on who we're playing and what their return team's like, that sort of stuff.
“But if we don't kick him deep, we're almost crazy.”
And yet, what if Sharp can pin teams deep, utilizing a lob-wedge sort of approach that allows teammates to cover kickoffs like punts and could even result in some fair catches?
The prospects are tempting.
And Sharp has been working on his loft shots, as well as his long balls.
“As far as maybe sky kicking it to a corner and your guys having a chance to be down there faster,” Sharp said, “I think that could be an advantage in some ways.”
It's not what Sharp prefers. The game previously was tailored to his strength.
“It's not something I wanted to happen,” he said. “It just levels the playing field.”
The change was made for the sake of safety. Kickoffs are viewed as one of the most dangerous plays in the game, with a wave of players getting a running start to build up top speed. Some get picked off in major collisions. Some get through to essentially become human bullets in search of a target.
With concussion awareness becoming a major focus, reducing the number of kickoffs is an aim at making the game safer.
Of course, if Sharp again becomes a game-changer with his sky kick, those kickoffs could actually become more dangerous.
“No question,” Gundy said.
The new rule impacts the Cowboys when kicking and receiving, with Justin Gilbert among the nation's top return men.
So the dilemma for OSU isn't only when to kick it deep, but also when to bring it out?
“You're going to see more touchbacks,” Sharp said. “But you have to deal with it, it's what they want. It's a safety issue.
“I think you'll see a change in a lot of areas, but we'll see what happens with it.”