OSU may return emphasis to rushing attack
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Sunday, April 15, 2012
4/15/12 at 6:46 AM
STILLWATER - In 2006-09, Oklahoma State averaged 563 rushing attempts per season. During each of those four seasons, the Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing.
In advance of the 2010 season, however, the OSU offense underwent an extensive redesign. The result was a pronounced emphasis on the forward pass. In 2010, there were 450 rushing attempts. In 2011, there were only 391.
Last season, with combined rushing totals of 1,862 yards and 33 touchdowns, running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith were extremely effective members of the Brandon Weeden-Justin Blackmon supporting cast.
This year, there is no Weeden and no Blackmon. With junior Clint Chelf, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh and freshman Wes Lunt locked in a competition that lacks definition, the only certainty at quarterback is that Oklahoma State will have a first-year starter.
Randle and Smith - each a 203-pound junior - may graduate to a much greater position of responsibility.
"We have two legitimate college running backs," coach Mike Gundy said. "Now, you've got another guy (sophomore Herschel Sims) that's about halfway there. If he gets to 80 percent, you've got three guys, and you're going to be pretty fortunate."
It's a given that the passing game won't cook as it did in 2010 and 2011, so a consistently dynamic running game should be a necessity in 2012.
"I think me and Jeremy would like to have more carries, (but) we don't call the plays. We just execute what (the coaches) call," said Randle, who with 1,216 yards last year became the 12th back in program history to reach the 1,200 mark in a single season.
Last season, Randle averaged 5.8 yards per attempt on 208 carries. If he were to sustain that 5.8 average and get 271 carries, as Kendall Hunter did in 2010, Randle would rush for 1,572 yards.
Randle was a touchdown machine last season. Of his 26 TDs overall, 24 came on run plays. At OSU, only Barry Sanders had a greater single-season total of rushing touchdowns, with 42 during his 1988 Heisman Trophy season.
Smith, a former Union High School star, averaged 7.1 yards per carry last season. He got his 646 yards and nine touchdowns on only 91 attempts.
"There are always different kinds of game situations, but we're ready for anything," Smith said of the possibility he and Randle may shoulder a heavier workload this year. "If they call on us to run the ball - like in (the Bedlam game) - we've just got to take care of business."
During OSU's 44-10, Big 12 championship-clinching conquest of Oklahoma, the Cowboys rushed for 278 yards (8.4 per attempt). Randle ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Smith ran for 119 yards on only 10 carries and also scored twice.
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken says he wants to be careful that Randle is not overused.
"Joe can wear down. Joe is just fast enough, and when Joe is not fresh or when Joe is tired, Joe looks sluggish," Monken said. "In the (Fiesta Bowl), I thought he looked sluggish. I didn't think he looked explosive.
"There are times when Jeremy (Smith) looks more explosive - more of a one-cut, downhill, explosive, powerful guy. ...
"(Randle) is a darn good receiver. Pretty good player in space. Confident guy. It will be interesting to see if he takes another step."
OSU football's most productive running duos
During the 2011 season, Oklahoma State running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith had a combined total of 1,862 rushing yards. A review of the top five two-man rushing performances in program history:
Barry Sanders 2,850 yards, Gerald Hudson 369.
Ernest Anderson 1,877, Harry Roberts 378.
Kendall Hunter 1,555, Keith Toston 686.
Thurman Thomas 1,613, Barry Sanders 603.
David Thompson 1,509, Andre Richardson 705.
Combined rushing TDs
The top two-man totals for rushing touchdowns in OSU football history:
1988: 45 (Barry Sanders 42, Gerald Hudson 3).
2011: 33 (Joseph Randle 24, Jeremy Smith 9).
1976: 29 (Terry Miller 21, Robert Turner 8).
1987: 26 (Thurman Thomas 17, Barry Sanders 9).
2008: 25 (Kendall Hunter 16, Keith Toston 9).
Original Print Headline: Cowboys may turn to run game
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
Randle (left), Smith