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Comparing Desmond Roland To Cowboy Stars Of Seasons Past

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Desmond Roland has spent 3 and a half years in the stable as a tailback in Stillwater, and it's his turn to bust out and have a tremendous year. But how will this year compare to similar seasons of Joseph Randle, Kendall Hunter, Barry Sanders, and Thurman Thomas?

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Desmond Roland had a breakout season last year, coming in relief for the struggling Jeremy Smith, who never found his stride as a starter during his time in Stillwater. Roland rushed for 811 yards last season, and appeared in all 13 games. Desmond looked very impressive at times too, finding 4 yards on plays where it didn't look like he could make it back to the line of scrimmage.

It’s a little early for this, but everyone is excited for OSU-FSU and everyone has a case of football fever. So let's see how Desmond Roland’s first two seasons, stack up against some former Cowboy stars that went on to play in the NFL.

Let’s start by looking at everyone's first season of regular appearances, not necessarily their first season to see the field. Roland played in 5 games as a freshman, but for the sake of comparison we're going start with his Sophomore year.

Comparing 1st Seasons of Major Contribution
PLAYER YEAR GAMES CARRIES YARDS AVG TD'S
Desmond Roland 2012 - So. 11 46 301 6.5 4
Joseph Randle 2010 - Fr. 13 82 452 5.5 2
Kendall Hunter 2007 - Fr. 12 107 696 6.5 4
Keith Toston 2006 - Fr. 12 106 631 6.0 6
Tatum Bell 2000 - Fr. 9 49 251 5.1 1
Barry Sanders 1986 - Fr. 8 74 325 4.4 2
Thurman Thomas 1984 - Fr. 12 205 843 4.1 7

Roland may have had the least amount of yardage, but statistically he compares to a young Tatum Bell. Thurman Thomas had the most yards, but was also carrying the most load.

Roland actually averaged the most yards per carry at 6.5 (tied with Kendall Hunter), and had nearly as many yards as Joseph Randle in about HALF the carries. Theoretically, if Roland’s pace of production had continued, and he had the same amount of carries, he would have outworked the great Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas. In an era where Quarterbacks are much more important than they were in the mid to late 80’s no less.

Now, I say all of this fully understanding the differences of the Poke's offense over time, including number of plays per game and the increased scoring, but it's interesting that Roland and Bell continue their stat similarities into their second season's of regular contribution.

Comparing 2nd Seasons of Major Contribution
PLAYER YEAR GAMES CARRIES YARDS AVG TD'S
Desmond Roland 2013 - Jr. 11 176 811 4.6 13
Joseph Randle 2011 - So. 13 208 1216 5.8 24
Kendall Hunter 2008 - So. 13 241 1555 6.5 16
Keith Toston 2007 - So. 11 38 190 5.0 1
Tatum Bell 2001 - So. 10 197 776 3.9 6
Barry Sanders 1987 - So. 11 105 603 5.7 9
Thurman Thomas 1985 - So. 12 327 1650 5.0 15

Thurman had the most yards as he ran ahead of Sanders in the pecking order in 1985, but nobody lit up the scoreboard on the ground like Randle in their second seasons.

Roland didn't become the feature back until the seventh game of the season, rushing for 219 yards on 26 carries in a blowout win at Iowa State. After the game Gundy indicated he liked what he saw out of Roland as the featured back.

"Keith Toston used to get better as the game went on", Mike Gundy said after the win over Iowa State. "Des Roland proved he’s one of those guys."

That's some very high praise, and looking at what the other's have accomplished as the featured back, we should expect big things from Roland this season.

Comparing 3rd Seasons of Major Contribution
PLAYER YEAR GAMES CARRIES YARDS AVG TOUCHDOWNS
Joseph Randle 2012 - Jr. 13 274 1417 5.2 14
Kendall Hunter * 2009 - Sr. 8 89 382 4.3 1
Keith Toston 2008 - Jr. 13 102 686 6.7 9
Tatum Bell 2002 - Jr. 11 175 1096 6.3 11
Barry Sanders 1988 - Jr. 11 344 2628 7.6 37
Thurman Thomas 1986 - Jr. 11 173 741 4.3 4
* Due to injury, Hunter only played 8 games

Comparing third seasons of regular caries is a no contest. Barry runs away with it. In fact, his 1988 season was just voted the greatest season in college football history. Making it the most dominant Heisman season ever. So ya, nothing is really going to compare to that.

What's not on that chart is they all went on to have pro careers, most notably the two Hall of Fame inductees in Thurman and Barry. Both Randle and Hunter are currently on NFL rosters..

Randle is with the Oklahoma State (South) Dallas Cowboys as a solid second back behind Demarco Murray. In his second season Joseph looks to be comfortable and hitting his stride.

Kendall has been in San Francisco since being a forth round pick in 2011. Unfortunately, he suffered a season ending injury and will miss 2014, after three relatively productive seasons in San Francisco behind Frank Gore in the saturating backfield the 49ers have.

So what are we to expect from Desmond Roland in 2014?

Roland spent the spring recovering from a shoulder injury, but has come back to fall camp healthy.

"It was a blessing just to step back on the field," said Roland via the Associated Press. "Last spring I was watching my teammates practice and it really hurt me. I felt like I couldn't be a leader like I should, like I couldn't say some stuff I wanted to say because I wasn't out there with them. But now that I'm back on the field, I can be that leader and I can step up when I want to."

Barring injury, I have him booked for 213 carries, 1246 yards, at 5.8 yards per carry and 21 TDs. Roland’s style as a runner means he won’t be busting out 70 yard runs often, but he will have a boatload of 6-8 yard carriers this season. An All-Big 12 year isn't out of the question for the senior tailback either. Expect big things from Mr. Roland this season.