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The Most Important Cowboy Football Players for 2017: No. 2

Today, we go with a freshman phenom who is looking to avoid the sophomore slump. *knock on wood*

Oklahoma State v TCU Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Last season, Oklahoma State once again was able to have a ground game. Part of this was due to defenses dropping back into coverage because of our “air raid” offense. Part of this was due to the offensive line learning how to run block. However, I think the most credit belongs to the second-most important player on the 2017 team.


No. 2 - #27 Justice Hill

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

Last season, the Cowboys had eight running backs on the roster. Five of those players were upperclassmen. Yet it was the newcomer-on-the-scene Justice Hill that turned heads during spring practice and ultimately won the starting job over Chris Carson, Rennie Childs and Barry J. Sanders. He didn’t disappoint.

Hill broke Thurman Thomas’s all-time record for most rushing yards in a season by a true freshman, accumulating 1,142 total yards. Not only did it break a school record, it was the most by any freshman running back across the entire FBS.

Not bad for the 5-10, 185 pound speedster out of Tulsa, huh?

As you would expect, he also accumulated quite a few awards in his first season.

  • 2016 FBS Freshman Rushing Leader
  • 2016 Freshman All-America First Team (FWAA)
  • 2016 Freshman All-America First Team (USA Today)
  • 2016 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year (Associated Press)
  • 2016 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year (Coaches)
  • 2016 Second-Team All-Big 12 (Coaches)

How impressive was Hill’s season? He was second on the team in all-purpose yards (1,188), trailing only James Washington, and second on the team in total offense (1,142), trailing only Mason Rudolph.

So why did we rank him second you may ask? Simple. His ability to run the ball helps free up Rudolph and the wide receivers. Opponents can’t drop extra backs into coverage, otherwise they are inviting Hill to run all day long. But they can’t stack the box either, because then Rudolph will just start throwing it to any of a handful of receivers on quick slants and screens.

If Hill and the offensive line can produce a running game similar to what they did last year, they are just adding another weapon to what likely will be the best offense in football. They will alleviate the stress of extra defenders dropping back into coverage, and force defenses to play more straight up.

It is always good to have balance in your offensive attack, even if you are an “air raid” style offense. A good running game will keep defenses on their toes, and the run-pass options could be lethal for Mason Rudolph and the Oklahoma State offense.

We will be releasing the rest of our countdown each day leading up to the Spring Game April 15th. Check back every day to see who makes the list!

Top 15 Countdown:

15. Matt Ammendola
14. Backup Quarterback
13. Tyron Johnson
12. Marcus Keyes
11. Jarrell Owens
10. Zach Sinor
9. DeQuinton Osborne
8. Darius Curry
7. Chad Whitener
6. Jalen McClesky
5. Ramon Richards
4. Brad Lundblade
3. James Washington