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January 20, 2013

2013 Positional Outlook: Running Backs

Running back's have been a staple for Oklahoma State despite moving to their current air-raid offensive attack.

This season was no different, as the Cowboys had solid options in the running game all season. But with the offseason comes changes, and just like at every other position the Pokes have a little bit of work to do.

Key Loss:

Joseph Randle: 1,417 yards, 14 TD's, first team All-Big 12 (Passed on senior season to enter the NFL draft)

Key Returns:

Jeremy Smith: 371 yards, 8 touchdowns

Desmond Roland: 301 yards, 4 touchdowns


Outlook: Despite losing their sixth-straight All-Conference running back in Randle, the Cowboys seem to be in a good position going into 2013 at running back.

They're in good hands with Smith, who missed a good chunk of the season with an ankle injury he suffered against Texas. He's obviously been used a ton in the last two seasons as a one-two punch with Randle, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Smith is a compact runner who reminds me a lot of former RB Kendall Hunter. He's built for running zones between the tackles, but has enough speed to get around the corner if he's pointed in that direction. He's also built like an ox, which doesn't hurt.

The biggest question for him, especially after this season, is injuries. He's never really been an injury-prone guy, and OSU never commented on the extent of that injury last season, so it leaves a little bit of curiosity there as to what the full story was, and why it took so long for Smith to return to form.

Behind Smith is Roland, who's always reminded me of Randle. He's a taller back (listed at just over 6 feet tall), and has shown instances of running a lot like his predecessor. Roland is unproven, but has shown his talents here and there over the last two seasons. He's a strong runner, just as Smith is, but his long strides allow him to run outside of the tackles a bit easier, which will be key as Gundy will likely use Roland more this season as a changeup to Smith's fastball.

After Roland is where worry starts to creep in for me and probably the fans as well.

With the transfer of Herschel Sims after his freshman year, the Cowboys have a little bit of a void. They have guys there, most notably sophomore Caleb Muncrief. Muncrief's a small, shifty back that has some of the best wheels around, but it's unknown as to whether he could carry a full load one day.

There are also a few recruits coming in that could help the Cowboys out. Corion Webster is a 5'11, 185-pound back who seems ready to at least grab a carry or two at the next level judging by his tapes.

They picked up a verbal commitment from Rennie Childs today as he finished up his weekend visit in Stillwater, and he might find his way into the mix before too long. OSU also hosts Dontre Wilson next weekend, who fits the offense well.

The trend that intrigues me for the backs is how they're recruiting. The coaches have gone out and grabbed a few of the smaller backs in the last two seasons (Muncrief, Childs) who are comparable to Smith's build, but they aren't necessarily the power back that he is.

They've stayed with the big, Randle-like backs, but the shift to speed backs is an interesting thing that I'll definitely be keeping an eye on. Maybe they're watching what wide-open offenses have done with the smaller speed backs the last couple of seasons, most notably the Oregon Ducks, and want a piece of the pie. I'm not sure, but it's something to pay attention to.

As for this season, the Cowboys are in good hands-and biceps-with Jeremy Smith.


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