STILLWATER — With Joseph Randle's early departure to the NFL, running back will be an intriguing position to monitor as Oklahoma State opens fall camp this week.
Running backs coach Jemal Singleton can already fire off his own set of questions.
Can Jeremy Smith be a durable starter?
Is Desmond Roland ready to be a steady contributor?
Will Caleb Muncrief be a factor?
Will the “puppies,” incoming freshmen Corion Webster and Rennie Childs, be able to make an impact right away?
“We've got unknowns,” Singleton said. “If I'm those guys, I've got a chip on my shoulder. You're the position that's being questioned, probably the most.”
Singleton broke down the position with me following OSU's media golf outing last week.
Some of these questions you also had in the spring. Did Jeremy Smith start to show you he could be a reliable starter? Did Desmond Roland make significant strides?
“It's 15 practices. It's every other day. Really, the workload isn't anything like it is week in and week out during the season. If a guy (like Smith) finishes the spring and really doesn't have an injury or anything, it doesn't tell me a whole lot.
“I think Desmond, this spring, showed me a lot more of the maturity that I think he had been lacking. I think he's really turned it on. Knock on wood, because I don't want to jinx him. But I think he's starting to understand life. He's starting to understand that, ‘Hey, it's important for me to go to class, it's important for me to do well in school, it's important for me to practice hard and do things right.' And I think when he's started to do that, his performance on the field has improved, too. I think this spring may have been it. I think he made that turn, and I really think he's got a chance to push Jeremy Smith extremely, extremely hard. Which is great for me, because I want competition.”
Really? Push for the bulk of the carries?
“I think the minute that Jeremy thinks he's the guy hands down, Desmond Roland is going to chomp at his heels. That's going to be good. They're both going to play. There's no ifs, ands or buts about it. Both of those guys are going to get significant reps, and whoever does the best with those reps is probably going to get a few more (carries in the game).”
What have you been hearing about Webster and Childs during summer workouts?
“They're working hard. I haven't had any bad reports about missing class, trouble, those types of things. That's just as important — what you don't hear is sometimes the best.”
What most caught your eye about those two guys while recruiting them?
“(Corion has) just got an innate ability. He's a quiet, quiet kid, but on the football field, he's a beast. He's a smart kid when it comes to football. He's one cut and go. I watched every single game he played his senior year, every snap he took when he carried the ball, and every game I got more excited about the fact that he was going to be a Cowboy.
“When we were able to offer Rennie a scholarship (after Randle declared for the NFL Draft), it was a huge day for me. It was the best, because he's a kid that I kept in touch with that whole year. Basically, (it was a) ‘Hey, we love you. I just don't have a ring for you' type of deal. He blew up (late in the recruiting process). Texas, Oregon, all these big schools came in on him late. And I think the fact that we had kind of stayed in the boat with him, even though we didn't have a scholarship, (helped us). I went down in the fall when we had a bye week and watched him play. You watch a screen play on one of his highlight tapes, I think he breaks eight tackles, makes four or five guys miss and he's gone up the sideline. So he's got speed, strength, size. They're both kind of what I look for in this offense, so we'll see how soon they want to contribute.”
And when could that be, realistically? Many expect them to challenge for the No. 3 job right away.
“I think we've proven here that freshman have played. You go back to Herschel Sims, he played as a freshman. Desmond Roland played as a freshman. Caleb Muncrief played as a freshman. I expect those guys to contribute. Now, if they're not ready, they won't. But if they are, we'll let them chomp at the bit a little bit and get going.”