STILLWATER — The choice currently facing Joseph Randle — stay at Oklahoma State for one more season or enter the NFL Draft? — is, of course, a personal one for the Cowboy running back.
Return to the Cowboys, and Randle gets to remain a key part of an OSU team that is one of the early favorites to win the Big 12 in 2013, finish his economics degree and experience a few more months of college life.
Jump to the NFL, and Randle gets to start making serious money to play football.
But, as with any personnel decision, what Randle chooses for his own future will in turn affect the Cowboy program as a whole, from its current roster to recruiting.
If Randle stays, what OSU's explosive offense holds onto is obvious.
Randle is the best running back in the Big 12, a dynamic and durable playmaker who can log 25 carries per game, make tacklers miss in the open field and catch the ball out of the backfield. In two seasons as the starter, Randle has amassed more than 2,500 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns.
A Randle return would also solidify OSU's current pecking order of backs, with Jeremy Smith keeping his role as the power complement and Desmond Roland and Caleb Muncrief filling out the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the spring.
If Randle leaves, though, depth at the position becomes a legitimate question.
Smith, of course, would move into the starting role. And the rising senior has proved to be an effective downhill back, with more speed than he gets credit for.
When speaking about his future last month, Randle said if he went pro, he believed Smith would be ready for the opportunity.
“He'll get his chance to be the starter, the featured back. We've been kind of acting like we're splitting time, but really …
“(He would) get his chance to further his career.”
The knock on Smith, though, is his inability to stay healthy for an entire 12-game regular season. He was hampered by nagging injuries for stretches during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Behind Smith, Roland has experience, tallying 46 carries for 301 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, but hasn't yet been asked to perform in key moments. Muncrief's only touches this season came in blowouts.
Should Randle move on, the 2013 season could also be when the on-the-field effects of last summer's dismissal of Herschel Sims really surface. The former five-star recruit was kicked off the team four days before being charged with two felony counts of second-degree forgery for stealing the ID card and $700 from OSU linebacker Jeremiah Tshimanga. Sims has since pleaded guilty and received deferred sentences.
Randle's choice could also have an impact on recruits who are considering the Cowboys.
OSU already has one running back commitment in Corion Webster, a three-star prospect from Atlanta, Texas. And whether Randle stays or goes, OSU will likely try to add one more back to its class.
If Randle enters the draft, though, could that actually help the Cowboys land an elite back? That would naturally create more opportunity for a young-but-talented newcomer to compete for immediate playing time.
The Cowboys still appear to be in the mix for Altee Tenpenny, who Rivals ranks as the No. 6 back in the country. The North Little Rock (Ark.) product is committed to Alabama, but could visit OSU before Signing Day, according to Rivals.
Randle has until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft. Until his decision comes, the rest of the Cowboy program will wait and prepare to adjust accordingly.