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The 5-Headed Monster

Can Oklahoma State’s five-deep committee of running backs be productive this season?

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

Since the Cowboy running backs haven’t been talked about enough already, I thought I would go ahead and write something up on them… Okay, obviously I’m kidding, the OSU backfield has been discussed at great lengths throughout the summer and I believe this will continue well into the fall.

But, a topic about the group of “or”, as I like to call them, came up during a conversation the other day that had me thinking. Can a division of workload between four (or five) running backs be productive?

After the Southeastern Louisiana game last week, I don’t think there was any clear cut front runner to take over the RB1 spot. So, let’s say we see the same thing in week 2 against Central Michigan and again win we match up with Pitt. Is it possible that Gundy will go with the running back by committee format for the entire length of the season?

The first thought that pops into my head is, how does any one particular running back get any kind of rhythm going if he’s constantly rotating with three or four other guys? If, for example, Justice Hill breaks off two nice runs in a row, does Gundy stick with Hill? Do he and Yurcich have a set number of carries they would like to see each back get before the game? I just don’t know if I like a rotation with this many guys in the mix. Here’s how the carries were broken up against Southeastern:

  • Jeff Carr – 6
  • Justice Hill – 6
  • Chris Carson – 5
  • Barry Sanders – 4
  • Rennie Childs – 3

That’s a pretty even split between the five backs.

If you don’t have one stud running back like a Leonard Fournette at LSU or a Nick Chubb at Georgia, then I believe that three running backs can be a nice mix, especially if all three guys have different styles or bring a certain x-factor to the game. Such as, a Tyreek Hill, speedster-type, paired with a bruiser, goal line back. But I just think five, and even four guys in the rotation is too many.

Let’s take a look at where each team in the Big 12 finished in rushing yards per game last year:

  1. Baylor
  2. West Virginia
  3. Texas
  4. OU
  5. TCU
  6. Texas Tech
  7. Iowa State
  8. Kansas State
  9. OSU
  10. Kansas

The Cowboys were 9th in the Big 12 last year in rushing offense. I took a look at all of the Big 12 teams and how they split up their carries between running backs in 2015. Out of all Big 12 teams OSU ranked 8th in the percentage of a team’s total carries taken by the top two running backs. The two teams ranked below them were Kansas and Baylor. Additionally, they were 9th in the percentage of a team’s total carries taken by the top three running backs, with only Baylor ranking below them.

I would count Baylor as an anomaly due to that fact that they were in several blowouts and the backup running backs would get substantial carries. Also, Shock Linwood, their leader in rushing attempts and yards, missed the bowl game against North Carolina where Baylor ran it 82 times for 645 yards. And, those attempts were spread out between the backup running backs

So what does this mean? This means that OSU spread their total carries around more than a majority of teams in the Big 12 and they finished second to last in total rushing. That is not very reassuring heading into this season.

I hope that someone (*Justice Hill*) steps up before Big 12 play and we start to see the rotation shorten. I just think that it works out better for the offense to have one key back and one or two change of pace guys behind him. That being said, I wouldn’t mind having a two or three running back rotation and also seeing Jeff Carr out there in certain situations and even lining him up as a slot receiver at times.

In conclusion, I just don’t know if “The 5-Headed Monster” at running back is the best strategy for the Cowboys as we progress through the season.