Three straight running backs for Oklahoma State, playing from 2008 to 2012, went on to play professional football. All three- Kendall Hunter, Keith Toston and Joseph Randle- had 1,000-yard rushing seasons, with Hunter and Randle having two each. During this time, Oklahoma State experienced unprecedented success, with OSU winning no fewer than nine games each season, with the outlier being Randle's 2012 season.
Now, obviously not all or a majority of this success can be attributed to having a 1,000-yard running back. Oklahoma State also had Zac Robinson and Brandon Weeden play quarterback during this time (except, again, the outlier in 2012), who are arguably two of the best QBs to play at OSU. However, the presence of a dominant run game not only made the offense more than one-dimensional; it took defensive pressure off the the pass game, allowing it to flourish.
Along the same lines, as Oklahoma State's run game has diminished in the last three years, the success of the team has taken a dip, as well as the passing game production. Most of the lack in the passing game can be attributed to having a string of inconsistency and injuries at quarterback, but also to a one-dimensional offense.
In 2015, the running position at OSU has the biggest question marks as well as the most potential to improve. With only Rennie Childs returning for the Cowboys (78 carries, 294 yards, 3 TDs), no one can say for sure how the position will produce. However, former Georgia commit Chris Carson, who played at Butler Community College, and freshman Jeff Carr have been raved about by local media and coaches alike, giving hope that the position could be a strong point for OSU this season.
So could OSU have a 1,000-yard rusher this season?
Let's Buy or Sell.
Buy- Oklahoma State has a 1,000-yard rusher in the 2015-2016 season.
As I explained above, there is a recent correlation between a strong running game and a successful season for the Cowboys. With an improved offensive line and a passing game that looks to be the cream of the crop this season, the rushing game is the only piece missing in making this potentially good offense into a great offense.
For who the 1,000-yard rusher could be, that's a harder question to answer. Not only are there three good candidates for the Cowboys at the running back position, but Oklahoma State also has a backup quarterback that has been known to have a strong running game as well. Although this is the case, in past years there has been one OSU running back that has separated from the pack and become the go to choice for running carries.
Whether its Carson, Childs or Carr, whichever running back that makes his spot in the roster defined and performs for the Cowboys early on will be the likely candidate to rush for 1,000 yards. All three running backs have the characteristics of an efficient rusher, with each three having their own distinct traits.
From practice reports only, Carson seems to be able to have the speed to run away from defenders but also the size and power to run through a hole or through a defender. Childs, who has the experience going forward, is more of a shifty back, one who can make a move and separate himself from a defender laterally. Carr, also from practice reports, has been said to be the fastest of the three.
With an impressive showing from the O-line this season, any of the three running backs have a chance to return the OSU running game to its former glory.
Sell- Oklahoma State does not have a 1,000-yard rusher for the 2015-16 season.
In reality, there is a good reason and a bad reason this could occur this season. Everyone likes good news, so let's focus on the good first.
With three impressive and competitive running backs, a rushing game by committee is not out of the question for Oklahoma State. Add in the factor of having a QB, J.W. Walsh, who can hold his own running out of the backfield, and the case for using multiple options in the running game is that much stronger. With more options going into each game, it will make it that much harder for opposing defenses to game plan against OSU.
The bad news, which we must address, is that none of the running backs might pan out as advertised. In the years that the running game was successful for Oklahoma State, each running back played behind the last dominant back from the year before (Hunter under Dantrell Savage, Toston under Hunter, Randle under Hunter). With this season, Childs enters the season with the least amount of yards for a returning running back, if you considered him the starter.
Carson, who looked impressive in his community college career, has yet to be tested against D-1 defenses. His size and speed are good indicators, but until he is seen playing against players outside of community colleges and the practice squad at OSU, it will be hard to gauge his future success. Also, many of his highlights that have brightened the imagination of Oklahoma State fans were against community college players, who although impressive, are not at the caliber of Big 12 defensive players.
Jeff Carr is more a cut and dry story. Being a freshman, Carr is a complete unknown, with no prior college experience to predict how he will fair against college defenses. Add in the fact that he will most likely be returning kicks for OSU, and it becomes even less likely that Carr is the answer to the 1,000-yard rusher problem.
So what do you think, Buy or Sell?