STILLWATER — So, which back gets the ball in Oklahoma State’s offense, now that Tyreek Hill has joined Desmond Roland and Rennie Childs in the mix for carries?
That’s the dilemma ... for opposing defenses.
“It creates something for the defense to they don’t know what to expect,” said Roland. “We can give it to me up the middle, then run Tyreek up the sideline.”
Childs offers a mix of the two, the quickness to run away from defenders, but also a toughness to run between the tackles.
All will play.
Sometimes together, in packages of two and even the complete trio.
The Cowboys have options.
Hill, of course, is the wild card, with world-class speed – literally – fit for multiple roles that extend from running and receiving to returning punts and kicks.
The junior college transfer from Garden City Community College in Kansas, Hill arrived with promise to play either running back or receiver. And he’s played both with the Cowboys. And he’ll continue to play both.
But the Cowboys are committed to getting him touches, “15 to 20 per game” according to Mike Gundy, and the easiest way to do that is on handoffs.
Roland is ready, too, after surging into the feature role a year ago when Jeremy Smith stumbled in the spot. Roland ran for 654 of his team-high 811 yards in the final seven games of 2013, playing a key role in transforming OSU’s offense.
After off-season shoulder surgery that kept him out of spring, he’s healthy and hungry to return to his punishing running style.
“It really killed me to see my brothers and teammates practicing while I was just running gassers and working out,” Roland said. “I just really missed the game.
“My first day back, I felt like I was really blessed to be back on the field. I really missed it.”
Childs isn’t as fast as Hill – not many are – yet he has the speed to hit a hole and bust a big run. And, at a solid 205 pounds, he’s not afraid to duck and dig a shoulder for the tough yards.
“If somebody’s in my way, I’m not going to be scared and run out of bounds or juke,” Childs said. “If I’m in a situation where I have to juke, I’m going to do it, but if I’m in a situation where I have to run through them, then I’m going to run through them.”
The Cowboys lost Kye Staley at fullback, but return Jeremy Seaton, who played substantially with Staley limited by lingering knee issues. Seaton won’t take many carries away from the tailbacks, but he’s an accomplished blocker who doubles as a surprise receiver.
Teddy Johnson, who has starred on special teams, is Seaton’s backup.
“Over the past few years, I believe the fullback position has brought a few more assets to the team that we hadn’t had before,” Johnson said. “We’re a lot quicker and a lot faster than the traditional fullback. And with that on our side, I think defenses will have to take that into account and open up the field a little bit.
“With a strong running force and more tight ends, I think we have a good offensive scheme this year.”
There’s already a “Thrill Hill” feel to the offense, with the junior college transfer adding an instant excitement element that’s not been evident in Stillwater in some time. He’ll line up in various spots, but more often in the backfield.
It’s an either-or – and sometimes both – scenario with Roland and Hill. Roland came on in the second half of last season and starred, rescuing OSU’s stagnant run game with repeated big games. He’s looking to do more, if the job share allows.
Childs showed flashes of what he can do as a true freshman a year ago, averaging 4.6 yards on 41 carries. A year in the system and on campus seems to have benefitted him, showing up in a strong preseason.
Consider Seaton the starter at fullback... or tight end, whichever the Cowboys go with in certain sets. A powerful blocker and capable receiver, the former walk-on is a valuable piece in adding a stronger presence to the offense.
Another former walk-on who offers an element of toughness, Johnson has been a linebacker and a key special teams figure during his career. His hardnosed style will translate nicely to a blocking role in the backfield.
By John Helsley