Oklahoma State shows three backs are better than one

Oklahoma State heads into its Bedlam game Saturday against Oklahoma with the nation's fifth-leading rusher, a bruising goal-line runner and a back whose pass-catching back skills have become an X-factor. A look at how the Cowboys have unleashed a three-headed running back monster on the Big 12.
BY BRANDON CHATMON, Staff Writer, bchatmon@opubco.com Modified: November 23, 2010 at 6:21 am •  Published: November 22, 2010

STILLWATER — A key situation in Oklahoma State's win over Texas reveals the depth the Cowboys have at the running back position.

With the score tied at 3 and OSU facing a critical third-and-goal, running back Kendall Hunter lined up alongside quarterback Brandon Weeden. At the snap, Weeden turned and handed the ball to Jeremy Smith, who, thanks to a great lead block by Hunter, galloped into the end zone for a 6-yard, second-quarter touchdown.

Hunter, the nation's fifth-leading rusher, became a lead blocker instead of the primary ball carrier as OSU's No. 3 running back cruised into the end zone. That duo has combined with freshman Joseph Randle give the Pokes three different tailbacks might be starters.

“All three are different,” OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen said. “And all three are capable of being the main guy. If we were going to play one running back, all three of them could be that one running back.”

Hunter is one of the best running backs in the nation. One of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, Hunter has rushed for 1,461 yards and 16 touchdowns. He's tough to tackle in the open field and has underrated strength and durability.

“Kendall is Kendall,” Holgorsen said. “He's a guy you want to hand it to 30 times per game.”

Randle is one of the most versatile running backs in the Big 12 with his 1,074 all-purpose yards topping every other freshman in the conference. The Wichita, Kan., native has made screen plays among the most lethal in the Cowboys' arsenal.

“He's the best receiver of the three,” Holgorsen said. “We want to get Randle involved with a lot of third-down stuff. We can throw screens to him, throw it to him out of the backfield.”

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