STILLWATER — Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft, he told The Oklahoman Thursday morning.
Randle said in a direct message on Twitter he had “made my decision not to come back.”
Randle was an All-Big 12 running back in 2012 after amassing more than 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2011, he totaled more than 1,200 yards and 24 touchdowns.
He finishes his career as one of the most prolific running backs in OSU’s rich history at the position, ranking eighth all-time in rushing yards (3,085) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (40).
Randle is rated a second- or third-round pick by most prominent draft projections, with ESPN expert Mel Kiper ranking him as the fifth-best junior running back available. Randle brings a versatile skill set to the NFL, as he can handle 25 carries per game, make defenders miss in space and catch the ball out of the backfield.
Randle squelched most draft talk during the stretch run of the season, consistently stating he would make a decision about his future after the Heart of Dallas Bowl. He said his oldest brother, Larry, had been handling the bulk of the process of evaluating his draft stock.
A source indicated to The Oklahoman last week that Randle’s family had been pushing him to go pro and start earning a living.
Without Randle in 2013, rising senior Jeremy Smith, who has totaled more than 1,000 yards and 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons, will slide into the starting role. Junior Desmond Roland (46 carries, 301 yards, four touchdowns in 2012) will be the backup, while sophomore Caleb Muncrief (14 carries, 57 yards) will fill out the depth chart for spring practice.
Randle said last month that if he did jump to the NFL, he believed Smith would be ready for the bigger role.
“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.”
Smith’s running style is more downhill than Randle, though he does also possess solid speed. He has had trouble staying healthy for an entire 12-game regular season, though, as he was hampered by nagging injuries for stretches of both 2011 and 2012.
And depth behind Smith is a legitimate concern. Roland has not yet been asked to carry the ball in crucial moments, while Muncrief’s only touches this season came in blowouts.
The Cowboys have one running back commitment for the 2013 recruiting class so far in Corion Webster, a three-star prospect from Atlanta, Texas. OSU is also still in the mix for four-star back Altee Tenpenny, according to Rivals. Tenpenny is committed to Alabama but could visit OSU before Signing Day.
Staff Writer John Helsley contributed to this report.