STILLWATER – Jeremy Smith knows he'll be reading evil intent in the eyes of more enemy defenders, knows they'll be grunting and stunting and hunting in an all out attack.
Hunting No. 11 – true freshman Cowboys quarterback Wes Lunt.
Smith, grinning at the thought, doesn't even flinch.
Bring the blitzes. Heck, bring the kitchen sink. Smith and his running mate Joseph Randle are willing reinforcements, ready to ramp up their roles to ease the transition of their rookie quarterback.
“Us two,” Smith said, “having so much experience, we have to step it up. That happens each and every year, but this year we have to really step it up, because we have such a young quarterback and we've got to protect him.
“He's a great quarterback and a great leader, but we've got to help him. We've got to run harder than we've ever run before. And that's pretty much our mentality for this season.”
Randle and Smith already rate as one of the top tailback tandems in the country. A year ago, despite working in the shadows of Weeden2Blackmon, they combined for 1,862 yards and 33 touchdowns rushing.
Now they're ready for more. More of a running load, if necessary. More of a receiving role, too.
More of a burden, for sure.
“We've been working hard in practice to make sure we have the endurance to go the whole game if we have to, just us two,” Randle said. “It could come down to a lot of running, where they hand it off the whole game. And we wouldn't be mad.
“We'd just take off and both have great games.”
The Cowboys are counting on Randle and Smith to discourage defenses surely aimed to rattle Lunt, at least until he can consistently offer his own discouragement. That means a heavier emphasis at times on the run game, but also on their blocking skills in the passing game.
“Teams we play are going to try to blitz Wes like crazy and try to force him into making mistakes,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “Just about any school, no matter how good they were, if they had a freshman quarterback, defenses tried to make his day miserable.
“If you don't have running backs, you can really make it miserable. We've been fortunate with the guys we have, they're not only good at running the ball, but they're good blockers. They can pick up blocks and free up a (receiver) in man coverage.”
Better yet, Smith and Randle are willing, which has contributed to their development as all-around backs just as able to halt a blitzing linebacker as they are to break off a long run.
“We can see a blitz and know what it is,” Smith said. “And our line is great, too, at communicating to us.”
Gundy said to even expect both backs on the field together at times.
“I just feel like we need to continue to bring the value that we've always had as a tandem and do more than one thing than just running the ball,” Randle said. “We need to be better pass blockers. Better run blockers if they ask us to do it. And good receivers.”
Said Smith: “Each and every day, Joe and I have to come out and compete. We have to tell each other, ‘This is our year. And this is our quarterback that we have to protect.'”
JOSEPH RANDLE AND JEREMY SMITH'S CAMPAIGN SLOGAN
“Two For The Show!”
Don't look at Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith as a starter and backup. Look at them as a package deal, a tandem pair complementing each other with Randle's finesse and Smith's force. And with rookie quarterback Wes Lunt learning the ropes, Smith and Randle are readying to dominate the 2012 campaign.
JOSEPH RANDLE AND JEREMY SMITH'S ENDORSEMENTS
* OU RB coach Jemal Singleton: “I want those guys on the same ticket. I want a President and a Vice President. And if the President goes down, the Vice President just steps right in. Those two need to be running in the same campaign, because when you endorse one, you endorse the other. And those two guys together are pretty good players and give us a chance to do some things.”
* OSU offensive lineman Parker Graham: “We've got two really good backs, who when they're in the backfield, it makes our job easier. We can mess up a blocking scheme and it doesn't really matter. If they make one guy miss, they're gone to the end zone.”
* Smith on the tandem: “Joe is one of those slasher kind of guys. I may try to slash you, but then I'm going to hit you in the mouth.”
* Randle on the tandem: “Together, we're a tough combination. Either one of us can get it done.”