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November 26, 2012At the beginning of the year, Oklahoma State had a group of unproven nobody's on offense.
Wes Lunt, Josh Stewart and Tracy Moore were players the fan base had heard a lot about, and seen a little bit of, but no one knew what to expect. Predictions went as high as a Big 12 Championship, and as low as a 5-win season.
In the thick of the fan's panic was one hope to cling to-The return of running back Joseph Randle, who led the team in 2011 with a four-digit rushing yard total and 24 touchdowns.
This season has been more of the same, as Randle has eclipsed the 1000-yard mark again and punished the Oklahoma Sooners with four scores in the Bedlam game Saturday. With that success has come questions.
Will he stay, or will he go?
Initially, he didn't want to get near the answer.
"Right now, I'm focused on Baylor," he said. "I'm having the time of my life here right now, I want to stay a regular guy for as long as possible."
But as the questions kept coming from myself and another reporter, one finally opened the junior up. When he was told he now ranked fourth on the touchdown list in Oklahoma State history, he tipped his hand.
"That's a blessing to be up there with all those guys that played in the NFL," he said. "That's my dream. When you first start playing football, you say man I want to play NFL football. I love playing, so why not get paid to play?"
When told a lot of people were worrying about that decision and whether he'd be back next season, Randle continued.
"I think we'd be alright," he said. "They'll bring in guys, and Jeremy Smith would get his chance to get a starter, the featured back. We've been splitting time, but he'd get his chance to further his career."
As the conversation continued, Randle began talking about what goes into that decision.
"It's not a decision I've made, it's not on my mind," he said. "There are things that come up. Education, things like that, how far along I am in my degree. If I stay, I could get my degree in Economics next December."
"I'm not leaving here with nothing. That's stuff I always think about, but I think Baylor is the best topic for right now."
With the decision looming, there's no assurance for Randle. In the NFL, the running back position is all but forgotten as team's move towards a spread approach.
With only one position on the team, yet so many guys available to play it, it's tough to make it in the league. After all, the average career for a professional running back is right around three years.
But even if Randle did make the jump, here's where he lines up with the top five running backs taken in this summer's 2012 NFL Draft.
Keep in mind that Randle still has two games left to make these numbers even better.
Yards per carry:
LaMichael James (Oregon, 61st pick): 5,082 yards, 6.6 yards per carry
Doug Martin (Boise State, 31st pick): 3431 yards, 5.6 yards per carry
Isaiah Pead (Cincinnati, 50th pick): 3,288 yards, 6.0 yards per carry
Trent Richardson (Alabama, 3rd pick): 3,130 yards, 5.8 yards per carry
Joseph Randle: 2,880 yards, 5.5 yards per carry
David Wilson (Virginia Tech, 32nd pick): 2,662 yards, 5.8 yards per carry
The biggest thing to look at there is that Randle ranks lower than all of those players in yards per carry, and he has the luxury of one of the best passing attacks in the nation to keep defenses busy while he slips a run in behind their backs.
But any Oklahoma State fan will say he has a knack for the end zone, and that's what makes him great. The numbers agree in that regard.
LaMichael James: 53 TD's
Doug Martin: 43 TD's
Joseph Randle: 40 TD's
Trent Richardson: 35 TD's
Isaiah Pead: 27 TD's
David Wilson: 18 TD's
The last section to compare him to is receiving. With the passing attack becoming more and more prevelant in the NFL, coaches love pass-catching backs because they can attack in multiple ways. One-dimensional running backs is a lost art these days.
Here are the previously mentioned players in terms of stat lines ranked by average yards per reception.
Yards per reception
LaMichael James: 11.5 yards per reception, 586 yards, 4 TD's
Trent Richardson: 10.7 yards per reception, 730 yards, 7 TD's
Doug Martin: 10.5 yards per reception, 715 yards, 4 TD's
David Wilson: 9.8 yards per reception, 363 yards, 5 TD's
Joseph Randle: 8.7 yards per reception, 894 yards, 3 TD's
Isaiah Pead: 8.3 yards per reception, 721 yards, 6 TD's
With all of those statistics in mind, Randle would likely be a solid pick in the NFL draft. He's a sizeable back with speed and good open-field movement to avoid tackles, and has the power to run through contact if he can't avoid it.
Should he leave early? Coach Mike Gundy doesn't think so, saying "I think he needs one more year to really prove himself fully."
Will Randle listen to that? Or will he run for the money after the bowl game.
Not even the junior knows now, just as he said before.
"My focus is on Baylor."
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