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Is Barry J. Sanders Going to Return Punts?

Mike Gundy spoke to a room full of orange in Tulsa Thursday night and among his comments was the mention of Barry J. Sanders being involved in punt returns for the Cowboys.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Tulsa edition of the Cowboy Caravan was last night and Mike Gundy spoke with Larry Reece for about half an hour in front of what was announced as the largest crowd ever assembled in the auditorium on the campus of OSU-Tulsa. There was quality humor throughout what was a very Gundy-like performance, including what we'll call an anonymous dig at "other stadiums in the country where people fill up, get a tank of gas and a hat, and go to a game," while contrasting the special connection OSU fans tend to have to the university. Of course, we couldn't go 30 minutes without some #Gullet talk, and it produced what was probably Gundy's funniest quote of the evening: "There's more pressure on me with my hair now than the damn offensive line." That's a lot of pressure.

Amid all of the classic Gundy, there were some interesting comments made. Perhaps the most interesting was regarding graduate transfer Barry J. Sanders. Everyone around Cowboy Nation has been eagerly awaiting the debut of Sanders and doing plenty of prognosticating in the meantime. He's been billed as the savior of the maligned running game by some, and as just another solid rotation guy by others. None of us really know what's in store for BJS this season or what to even expect of the young man, but Coach Gundy suggested we may end up seeing him make an impact on special teams. Here's an excerpt of what Gundy had to say when asked about Barry J.

"He's always been one of us because he was around our program, he was always at our games and our camps. His mom lives there in Oklahoma City and she was a student at Oklahoma State. So, he's kind of like one of us. I understood why he went to Stanford. We know he's mature. I think he's almost 23 now, he's a college graduate, and he's done a good job working in our program. We're hoping that he'll be involved in some of our punt returns and then, you know, get him carries at the running back position and see what he can do."

So, a whole lot of coachspeak and then he just slips that little tidbit in there about Barry being involved in punt returns. At which point, I did something close to this:

We discussed punt returners about a month ago in a CRFF Roundtable and exactly NOT FREAKING ONE OF US mentioned Barry's name. We talked about guys like Jalen McCleskey, Jeff Carr, Jakeem Johnson, La'Darren Brown, and basically everyone on the roster not named Barry J. Sanders. And for good reason, mostly because we didn't think of it. But also because he's not coming in with a reputation as a standout return man. During his time at Stanford, he returned nine punts (seven of which were during his first season in 2013) and two kickoffs in three full seasons. Granted, he was behind two of the best returners in the country in Ty Montgomery and Christian McCaffrey, but that didn't lead naturally into him being part of the return game at OSU this season, particularly when OSU returns its primary punt returner and its primary kickoff returner from last season.

But now comes this #GundyBomb that the hope is he WILL be involved in the return game. And there's certainly reason to be excited about that idea. For starters, Sanders averaged over 10.5 yards per return on those nine punt returns for Stanford, compared to just 6.7 yards per return for Oklahoma State last season. Now, that's an extremely small sample size and the majority of it is from three seasons ago, but it's still promising. And let's not forget the gene pool that Barry J. is working with here. His dad wasn't a bad return man himself, averaging over 11 yards per punt return during his three seasons in orange, including a ridiculous average of 16.3 yards during the 1987 season. In case you're wondering, Christian McCaffrey averaged 8.7 yard per punt return last season. Just saying. Pops also did things like this.

So we may be in store for another season of watching a guy with Sanders on the back of his OSU jersey terrorizing teams and returning punts to the house. I don't hate it. I'm guessing Cowboy Nation wouldn't either. And I know at least one Big 12 team who probably won't mind not seeing Jalen McCleskey back fielding punts this season.

OSU Athletics