While Oklahoma State is progressing toward having most players who play every down healthy by Saturday’s season opener against Missouri State, one impact player on special teams appears to be ready to roll come 6 p.m. Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium.
During his final press conference before the opening game, Mike Gundy said kicker Alex Hale was shaping up to be ready to return to his starting role following a pregame injury prior to the Bedlam game that ended his season late last year.
“He’s been involved in everything that I’ve seen him involved in prior years,” Gundy said. “I would say he’s doing good.”
Before suffering the knee injury last year, Hale was 13 of 14 on field goals and had converted on all 18 of his extra point attempts.
Despite coming off an injury, Hale’s performance on the field last year was still good enough to garner him some attention heading into this season. A month ago, he was named to the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award Watch list, as one of 30 players on the preseason list.
Hale was a semifinalist for the award in 2020 before his season was halted for the final five remaining games.
While Hale is locked in to do field goals for the Cowboys, Gundy wasn’t certain as of Thursday on Hale’s availability for kickoffs. The depth chart released by Oklahoma State listed the likely candidates to be Brady Pohl or UNLV transfer Tanner Brown.
Weeden on the call this weekend
Oklahoma State fans who tune into Saturday’s game on ESPN+ will get an opportunity to hear one of their own doing the color commentary for the Cowboys’ opener.
Brandon Weeden, the only Oklahoma State quarterback to lead the Cowboy football program to a Big 12 Conference championship, will work alongside Courtney Lyle and Shane Sparks on the Big 12 Now.
“He ought to be good – he knows the game, right?” Gundy said of his former QB. “Quarterback, should have a little Tony Romo in him. Should be able to call things before it happens.
“If you start calling plays out before it happens, all of a sudden you get a $6 million contract. He ought to be a guy that can do some of that. Plus, he has a great personality. People like him, comes across good. So, I would guess that he would do really well.”
Weeden last played in the NFL in 2018 as a member of the Houston Texans.
The former first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns played sevens years – starting in 25 games, and playing in 35 – while on the roster for four different franchises. He finished his NFL career with a 76 passer rating, with 31 touchdowns to 30 interceptions and 6,462 passing yards.
Back to a full Boone Pickens Stadium
Oklahoma State released its policies for Boone Pickens Stadium this season, and OSU is attempting to get back to some semblance of normalcy.
Tailgating will return to the Stillwater campus – “limited to designated areas on campus” – with spots being claimed beginning at noon Fridays of home games, with parking lots opening at 8 a.m. Saturday for all home games, regardless of kickoff time.
There will not be limitation on seating capacity, as there was last year, while the Delta variant continues to spread across the country – hitting Oklahoma especially hard of late. According to the university, fans are “expected to wear a mask” whenever they are in indoor spaces at Boone Pickens Stadium or on campus.
The return of the college football atmosphere in the fall isn’t only significant for the budget at Oklahoma State, which – like most universities – took a toll due to last year’s limitations. But for Gundy and his coaching staff, it gives prospective players a look behind the curtain of what game day is like in Stillwater.
“It’s big for everybody, not just Oklahoma State. You want to bring players in,” Gundy said. “You want them to be able to see your tailgate. That’s a big part of us here. We have 35,000 people tailgating pre-virus. Now we should have, I don’t know what it will be, but it’ll be more than last year. And then eventually, hopefully it will get back to where it was.
“Then you allow a young man, some prospective student-athletes, to look and see kind of what it’s like. Most of the players that visit during that time of year are wanting to get a feel for what it’s like on your campus on a game day.”