Q&A: Cowboys have a big-time duo in special teamers Quinn Sharp, Justin Gilbert

BY JASON KERSEY, Staff Writer, jkersey@opubco.com Published: August 29, 2011
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STILLWATER — Oklahoma State has a special kind of dynamic duo in its special teams.

As as sophomore, punter Quinn Sharp was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America and was also the first-team All-Big 12 punter. He averaged 46.2 yards per punt with a long of 78 yards.


On the flip side, Justin Gilbert was electric as a freshman kick returner, bringing back two kickoffs for touchdowns. This season, Gilbert is expected to contribute more on defense as well.

What is practice like between the two of you?

Gilbert: In the beginning, when I first got here, I was way too far up, and the first punt was way over my head. (Laughs) now I don't get as close anymore.

Sharp: I try to make it easy on him in practice sometimes, try to punt it to him, but every now and then I'll send it over his head or off to the right or something. But for the most part I try to make it easy and give him catchable balls.

What were your first impressions of one another?

Gilbert: I thought it was nice to have one of the top punters in the country to punt to me in practice, so I could get used to catching some pretty good deep balls.

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DUO THEY MOST RESEMBLE

Yin and Yang

They exist as polar opposites.

On one side, Sharp leads the blue collar life of punter and kicker, called to preserve the peace by limiting special teams damage.

Gilbert thrives on such damage, as a feared game-breaking return man, turning the turf into his personal playground while weaving through kicking teams.

With the Cowboys, however, they signify the Yin and Yang of the nation's premier special teams unit.

FROM THE COACH

Associate head coach Joe DeForest on the special teams

“To be the best in the country — that's our expectations at Oklahoma State. Last year, we finished No. 1 in the Big 12 in our overall rankings and by Phil Steele's rankings, No. 1 in the country. And those are the expectations we have. We have some experience at the punter position, the returner position, the kickoff position, we've just got to plug into eight or nine new pieces at key spots to help get us started in the return game. We feel good about special teams.”

OSU SPECIAL TEAMS DYNAMIC DUO

Dan Bailey and Quinn Sharp, 2010

Punter Cliff Parsley and kicker Abby Daigle, who each made all-Big Eight in 1976, would have been a good choice. But Bailey and Sharp were more than the best kicking combo in OSU history; they were as good a combo as college football has ever seen.

Both made all-American.

Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker and was named Big 12 special teams player of the year. He kicked a walkoff game-winning field goal against Texas A&M and set the school record for career scoring, breaking Barry Sanders' record.

Sharp set the OSU record for punting average in a season, 46.2, and also had 15 punts downed inside the opponents' 15-yard line, with just four touchbacks. Sharp ranked second nationally in punting, and OSU ranked third nationally in team punting.

POSITION ANALYSIS

The Cowboys regularly rank among the best special teams units in the Big 12 and nationally. That was the case a year ago, when Phil Steele pegged them at No. 1. Little should change, although Dan Bailey's reliable placement leg must be replaced. Quinn Sharp will handle all the kicking chores, with great expectations. The return groups are explosive, too.

Starters

 

P/K Quinn Sharp 

6-1 

189 

Jr. 

LS Andrew Suter 

6-2 

255 

So. 

H Wes Harlan 

5-7 

175 

Jr. 

PR Josh Cooper 

5-11 

195 

Sr. 

KR Justin Gilbert 

6-0 

205 

So. 

Unit Grade: A

Sharp should shine in his expanded role and the return game only figures to be improved.

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