As of now, players Shaun Palelei and Rennie Childs are the only running backs who will be returning next year - this gives the Cowboys only two scholarship running backs on the roster for the 2015-16 season. How does an emerging power, with an established head coach, and world-class facilities end up in such a recruiting hole at such a key position?
It's a bit of bad luck from an unfortunate couple of years regarding the position. OSU has lost five (FIVE!) running backs that should have been available for the 2015 season.
In 2012, four-star RB Herschel Sims was kicked off the team for taking money from another player's bank account. He transferred to Lamar, and then again to Abilene Christian where he just finished his Junior season.
The Cowboys lost another four-star RB commit in Devon Thomas before his career even began due to an alleged incident resulting in five felony charges. Mike Gundy stated back in July that Thomas was no longer a member of the team, yet his twitter account still lists him as an Oklahoma State tailback. Even so, it is still inferred that he will not be returning.
OSU lost Corion Webster, who was in the same recruiting class as current Sophomore Rennie Childs. He was reportedly dismissed from the team as a result of insufficient grades. Still, just like Thomas, he states that he "plays college football for OSU." Hmm.
Most recently the Pokes lost perhaps their most dynamic player in former two-sport star, Tyreek Hill. Hill went from Bedlam hero to zero faster than he can run the 40 following an alleged domestic violence incident involving his pregnant girlfriend. The athletic department handled the situation as best they could, swiftly dismissing him from the team.
And finally, recruit Ronald Jones III decommitted earlier this month and will reportedly not be coming back. Jones was a consensus four-star player and ESPN's 5th best running back of the 2015 recruiting class. He is currently looking hard at both USC and Notre Dame, and has had recent visits to both.
If it were not for this series of unfortunate events, you would have theoretically had one of next year's best RB stables in the country. Obviously it stands to reason that if some players were still there, perhaps some of the others wouldn't have been recruited, but they would have been strong at that position regardless. Most of these incidents were out of OSU's control, and the team did the right thing by dismissing Sims, Thomas, Webster, and Hill. The Cowboys have shown the ability to recruit, but they just can't seem to retain 100% of their players. This speaks to a much larger issue, as Cowboy radio man Dave Hunziker spoke to the aforementioned retention problems earlier this season. They have also had other issues that have plagued the Cowboys when it comes to class productivity. The Pokes have shown the ability to recruit; let's just hope that their luck turns soon.
So where do the Cowboys go from here?
They could always get production from other players, such as walk-on and former KSU Wildcat Raymond Taylor or 2015 committed athlete Todd Mays. You could also convert WR Caleb Muncrief, who has previous backfield experience for the Pokes. Jerrell Owens was a three star running back commit from the most recent recruiting class, but was converted to defensive end full-time. It's likely that Owens is redshirted, and theoretically could be converted back next year if need be.
Then there's Jalen McClesky. The three-star receiver commit from Louisiana has been said by many to fit the Josh Stewart prototype. McClesky scored the lone touchdown for the West in Texas' Blue-Grey All American Bowl earlier this month. Other than that though, the Cowboys are very thin at running back and have no true RB commits as of now.
Who will be OSU's next break-out running back? Post your opinions in the comments below.