STILLWATER — Tyreek Hill came to OSU billed as the next Josh Stewart. The next Tavon Austin is more like it.
Hill spent all of the Cowboys’ Orange Blitz practice Saturday at tailback. The results weren’t spectacular; four carries for 15 yards, plus 10 yards off a swing pass. But in a scrimmage earlier in the week, Hill went 75 yards with a handoff out of the backfield and it seemed to take him all of three seconds to go cross country. And that’s after spending the first several spring practices at slot receiver.
It’s clear that the OSU coaches don’t know exactly what they have in Hill, a Garden City (Kan.) Community College transfer, other than something quite unique.
“I don’t see him as a receiver that lines up in the backfield,” said OSU running backs coach Jemal Singleton. “I don’t see him as a back that lines up as a receiver. I just see him as a guy that is a tool. And when you’ve got a good tool, you’ve got to figure out different ways to use it.”
Hill’s speed tantalizes OSU coaches. Hill won the Big 12 indoor 200-meter race in March and finished second in the 60 meters, with a time of 6.64 seconds. Mike Gundy’s mantra seems simple and direct. Get Hill the ball.
Gundy said he’d like to get Hill the ball via catch or carry 10-15 times a game, just like Stewart, OSU’s primary slot receiver the last three seasons, who declared for the 2014 NFL Draft. The Cowboys even put the diminutive Stewart at tailback a few plays last season, though little came of that endeavor.
“When we came off the field and Josh only touched the ball 3-4 times a game, I never felt good about our plan as a coach,” Gundy said. “Sometimes, the defense can dictate. Maybe if we can play him (Hill) at running back some and receiver some, then we can get him enough touches to help our offense.”
Which brings us to Austin, the game-breaking West Virginia receiver who suddenly shifted to tailback late in the 2012 season and became a terror, including a memorable debut of 344 rushing yards against bewildered Oklahoma.
“I think those references are valid,” Singleton said. “A guy that can run, shifty, make you miss, a smaller stature guy that can do multiple things.”
That scream you just heard came from the pit of Mike Stoops’ stomach.
Don’t misunderstand. No one knows if Hill can get within Austin’s area code as a ballplayer. Hill apparently can catch the ball, else he wouldn’t have been a junior college star. Can he hold up as a Big 12 ballcarrier, at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds? Nobody knows. But now’s the time to start finding out.