Oklahoma State football: Battle is on to replace Joseph Randle

While Jeremy Smith's time as the starting running back appears to have arrived, position coach Jemal Singleton wants to have several backs ready to step in.
By Gina Mizell Published: March 23, 2013
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photo - Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith (31) rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter during a college football game between Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the West Virginia University at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. OSU won 55-34. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma State's Jeremy Smith (31) rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter during a college football game between Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the West Virginia University at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. OSU won 55-34. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Now, about that durability. Before spring practice began, Singleton and Smith had a conversation about the back's recent history of nagging injuries that have slowed him at times the past two seasons.

While completely preventing injury is impossible, Singleton emphasized technique, like pad level, can help alleviate the severity of certain blows.

“There's nothing that's gonna cancel out the nicks and scrapes that you get as a running back,” Singleton said. “He's got to be able to show that he can handle those and still play through them and not miss a whole lot of time.”

But this spring is not just about Smith trying to cement himself as OSU's No. 1 back. It's about developing depth. Depth that, frankly, the Cowboys are lacking until incoming freshmen Corion Webster and Rennie Childs arrive for fall camp.

Singleton and head coach Mike Gundy have stressed OSU would always like to have four backs who are ready to contribute because of the number of plays the Cowboys run and the consistent pounding the position naturally takes.

Yet OSU has just three scholarship running backs currently on the roster. Roland, now a junior, has shown maturity that has put him in position to challenge for the starting job, Singleton said. And Caleb Muncrief, a late addition to the 2012 recruiting class who saw limited playing time as a true freshman, will have plenty to prove in his first spring on campus.

How the carries between those backs are divided is still to be determined. It could be a 60-40 split between the top two backs, with reps from the Nos. 3 and 4 guys sprinkled in. It could be closer to 50-50. It could be a running-back-by-committee approach.

Singleton hopes to have that set — and to name a true starter — by the end of these 15 practices.

“That's what this spring is for,” he said. “To find out the exact identity of our position group heading into next season.”