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Position Group Spotlight: Cowboy Back

Oklahoma State’s hybrid position group is as versatile as it is effective.

Oklahoma State v Baylor Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Two days removed from Oklahoma State’s win over Texas, the majority of water-cooler talk will be about Mason Rudolph’s big game or the emergence of Justice Hill or the bottomless talent pool that is OSU’s wide receiver group.

But let’s talk about the Cowboy Backs. The position group was created prior to the 2015 season as an amalgamation of the tight ends and fullbacks on the roster. The hybrid position, coached by second-year assistant Jason McEndoo, may not be as flashy or grab all the headlines but has been an important part of the high-powered OSU offense.

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NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The starting senior Cowboy Back, Blake Jarwin, had a career day against Texas with 50 receiving yards on four catches.

On the opening drive, before Justice Hill’s 30-yard touchdown run that lit up Twitter, the Cowboys faced third down and 6 on their own 40-yard line. Mason Rudolph threw it to Jarwin who made a man miss and went 17 yards, keeping the drive alive.

On the next drive, Jarwin made a 13-yard catch on third down and 10 from the Cowboy 30-yard line. Again he kept a drive alive that ended this time with James Washington “going house” on a 54-yard play which we will see for years to come on YouTube compilations.

Jarwin’s next catch was the last play of the first quarter. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed back the OSU drive 15 yards and a Rudolph sack for a loss of seven, the Cowboys were stuck with third and 19 on their own 16-yard line.

Jarwin was again targeted by Rudolph and made a play for 14 yards, getting punter Zach Sinor out of his own end zone.

Jarwin’s last catch came as the Cowboys found themselves facing a third and 10 from their own 29-yard line. Jarwin got six yards before he was pushed out of bounds.

All four catches were on third down.

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Wide receiver-turned-Cowboy Back, Keenen Brown had a big play in the fourth quarter. With the Cowboys up 46-31, Rudolph went to Brown on the first play of the drive who broke lose for 38 yards down the left sideline before finally being caught. That drive ended in a Ben Grogan field goal to lock up the scoreboard at 49-31.

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NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Oklahoma State Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The group’s other main contributor, Zac Veatch, is used a lot in pass protection and as an additional blocker on run plays. The former Cowboy offensive lineman takes over most of the “fullback” duties from departed Cowboy Back Jeremy Seaton.

The Broken Arrow product has been an underrated catalyst in the Cowboys’ running-game improvement, as well as blocking on punt returns. Go back and watch some of the best running plays of the season and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see No. 86 lead leading the play. The offensive line has made improvements but inserting Veatch into the backfield almost adds another guard into the mix and he can catch a ball.

Against Baylor, Veatch caught three passes for 26 yards including a 15-yard reception where he ran over Baylor defensive back Tion Wright. He also had the above-illustrated 18-yard touchdown pass against Central Michigan.

I would like to see the Cowboys hand Veatch the ball in goal-line and short-yardage situations. In limited touches he has looked strong with the ball.

The Cowboy Backs continue to see an increased role in the Oklahoma State offense. They support the offensive line in pass protection and run blocking and give Mike Yurcich a Swiss Army knife in his receiver tool box.