The arrival of tight end coach Jason McEndoo in February of 2015 brought with it the arrival of the now well-known Cowboy Back position. This fullback/tight end/wide receiver hybrid has become a very successful wrinkle in Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich’s offensive scheme. The different formations have allowed Oklahoma State to confuse opposing defenses and reap the benefits in big ways.
They’ve been ranked 24th and 14th in the nation in total offense, respectively, since the Cowboy Back position was given its name in 2015.
What Cowboy Head Coach Mike Gundy and Coach McEndoo envisioned when they created this position was a player who could line up in the wing position, take on the role of a tight end, split out wide or lineup in the backfield and create running lanes as a fullback. It takes a special type of player to be able to handle these different roles, along with a special type of coach to be able find this unique athlete on the recruiting trail.
Over the past two years, we’ve seen that McEndoo is this special type of coach, and players such as Blake Jarwin, Jeremy Seaton and Zac Veatch were these special types of players. With Jarwin even gaining a 2015 All-Big 12 selection. Here are their statistics by year:
Before the “invention” of the Cowboy Back, Oklahoma State tight ends would sometimes get lost in the Cowboy’s powerful air attack. Aside from Blake Jackson’s (who was really a wide receiver) amazing season in 2012,
Side note: The dude was an absolute beast…
the Cowboy tight ends and fullbacks have not previously been as productive as they have been these past couple of seasons. I went back to the 2010 season and totaled the receiving yards for all Oklahoma State players listed as either Tight End or Fullback, see below:
- 2014 – 269 yards
- 2013 – 154 yards
- 2012 – 842 yards (Of this, 598 from Jackson and 166 from Kye Staley… also a beast)
- 2011 – 201 yards
- 2010 – 34 yards
As you can see, outside of the 2012 season, the Cowboy Backs in 2015 and 2016 have out-gained the prior four seasons in total receiving yards.
This position doesn’t grab anywhere near the attention as being a wide receiver in Oklahoma State’s high-powered offense, but it is an extremely important one.
Which begs the question, with Blake Jarwin on and Zac Veatch finishing up his senior year in 2016, who will step up into this coveted role for Coach Yurcich and the Cowboy offense?
Here’s a look at who is currently listed at Cowboy Back on the 2017 roster:
- Keenen Brown R-Jr.
- Luke Hupp R-Jr.
- Britton Abbott R-Jr.
- Sione Finefeuiaki Jr.
- Dawson Bassett R-Sr.
- Dayton Metcalf R-Fr.
- Baron Odom Fr.
- Logan Carter R-Fr.
This group is made up of four juniors (two of which are junior college transfers), three true or redshirt freshman, and one senior. Combined they have two total receptions in an OSU uniform… both by Keenen Brown. Yes, you read that right… two.
Now let’s talk about who might be able to step in and try to fill this hole left by two solid players at this position.
The two names that first come to mind are Keenen Brown and Sione Fienfeuiaki. Brown is looking to fill more of the pass catching/play-making role that Jarwin held, and Fienfeuiaki will be trying to step into the blocking back type role that Veatch played so well at for the Cowboys last season.
Brown was a highly recruited wide-receiver coming out of high school, but he has not been able to make much of an impact so far at Oklahoma State. He redshirted his freshman year in 2014 and then an injury had him on the sideline throughout 2015. After the 2015 season, the coaching staff decided to move the uber-athletic Brown to Cowboy Back. With a solid receiving corps and two studs in front of him at his new position, Brown didn’t see much of the field in 2016 and when he did, he wasn’t much of a factor. He is still learning to adjust to his role, but feels that he can step in and make a difference for the Cowboys this season, similar to the role that Jarwin played. Here’s what he had to say about his adjustment to the position to the Tulsa World’s Kendrick Marshall this spring:
Personally, I feel Brown is going to be an impact player this season. He’s had time to adjust to the position switch and should be comfortable with Mason Rudolph at this point. And I know he has the talent to be good if not great, just look at his high school highlight video:
On the other hand, Fieufeuiaki is planning to catch a few passes here and there, but OSU really needs him to fill the physical, fullback-type, hole that Veatch left. He’s a 6-foot, 245lb transfer from the College of San Mateo who could really open up holes for Justice Hill and company in the running game. But don’t be fooled by my emphasis on his blocking, this guy can catch passes and make plays as well. I’d expect him to be open across the middle a couple of times a game.
Along with these two, some other names that you might see lineup at Cowboy Back for OSU this season are Britton Abbott and Baron Odom.
Abbott is a redshirt junior, and former stand-out high school quarterback in Kansas, whose time on the field has mostly been spent with the Special Teams unit. He’s more of a Veatch-type, blocking back, but he has shown in practice that he can catch a pass when called upon. On the other hand, Odom is more of a pass catching Cowboy Back. He’s massive, listed at 6’5, 225lbs, and although he’s a true freshman, depending on how things shake out, I could see him making an impact early in his OSU career. If not this year, he’s definitely who I’m banking on to take over this role going forward.
Gundy and McEndoo had high praise for these guys throughout the Spring and Summer and believe that they understand the importance of this position in the Oklahoma State offense. Hopefully a couple of them can step up this season because this position is the most underrated and one of the most important positions for the Cowboy offense. You may be saying to yourself, “But, we have the best receiving corps in the country!”, and I’m not going to argue with you there, but this position contributes in so many different ways. Whether it be the run-pass option with the Cowboy Back as the primary receiving target, in the running game blowing up the hole, short-passes out of the slot or even split out wide; these guys truly are game changers.
When Gundy and McEndoo created this position for the Cowboy offense, I wonder if they predicted the success and importance the position would have. The only question now is, who will step up and take the reins this season?