STILLWATER — Oklahoma State running backs coach Jemal Singleton looked on from the field at Boone Pickens Stadium, watching Joseph Randle go through drills during the school's pro day almost two weeks ago.
It was another reminder that life without Randle, arguably the Big 12's best all-around running back the past two seasons, has begun for the Cowboys.
And another reminder that Jeremy Smith's time as OSU's starter is officially under way?
Singleton says not so fast.
“There is going to be some competition with him and Desmond Roland this spring,” the coach said. “Nobody's the true starter yet. Everybody kind of assumes Jeremy Smith should be the guy. And really, he should. But there's going to be some competition.”
Smith is, of course, the logical choice to replace Randle after two seasons as the tough, productive backup with breakout moments. His downhill running style became a weapon for the Cowboys in the red zone, and his 6.2 yards per carry average trails only Barry Sanders (6.8) in school history for backs with at least 100 attempts.
Yet two words kept surfacing when Singleton described what he wants to see from Smith this spring — reliability and durability.
Let's start with reliability. Singleton doesn't just mean consistently picking up positive yards and taking care of the football. He means Smith showing he can be counted on to pick up blitzes in pass protection and make catches out of the backfield.
Every single play.
“Not every now and then. Not 80 percent of the time,” Singleton said. “But every time his number is called or his responsibility (is given), he's gotta show that, hey, he can get that accomplished. He's shown signs that he can be that guy.
“Now, you're not a backup singer anymore. You're a lead singer. You've gotta show me those vocals are good to go.”
Smith echoes that consistency is one of his main goals this spring.
“I'm loving (being in line to start), but I have to keep working hard,” he said. “This is every day. Gotta make sure I'm staying in tune with my coaches, staying on top of my plays, just getting better each and every day.”