2017 Grades: How Oklahoma State Running Backs Fared

Written by Kyle Boone

Oklahoma State’s two-headed monster at tailback evolved into more of a one-headed attack by season’s end, but by and large, OSU’s rushing attack far outweighed the preseason expectations placed on it.

Justice Hill followed up his freshman All-American performance in 2016 with an uptick in yards rushing to 1,347, as well as touchdowns (up from 6 to 14). He also caught 30 passes for 191 yards including a touchdown reception against Texas Tech.

But behind him was a cast that never quite got the opportunity, in part, because of Hill’s astronomical production. Freshman J.D. King recorded 466 yards, just ahead of third-leading rusher LD Brown, who finished with 211 on 33 carries.

Let’s take a look at hand out grades based on how the unit performed on the whole.


OSU’s rushing attack produced 183.3 yards on the ground per game — a mark which ranked third among Big 12 teams behind OU (215.9) and Kansas State (186.7). It also had the third-highest rush yards average per carry, and ranked first in the conference with 33 scores.

Here’s the reaction 2014 me would have had if you told me the 2017 team would be this good on the ground.

Grade: A

Big plays

It didn’t feel like the run game could produce home run hits in the same way the passing game could, which is to be expected when A) You have an NFL-caliber QB and NFL-caliber WR’s and B) The statistical odds of outrunning 11 people versus outrunning one corner or a corner and a safety is much longer.

But the confidence level I had in the run game overall was much greater than it was in previous years, in part because OSU has a freshman who can do things most freshmen cannot … like this.

OSU had zero 70-plus yard rushing plays from the last five seasons, but it logged three in 2017 alone. That’s a sign of good things to come, and a massive improvement both up front and in the backfield.

Grade: B


As far as recruiting, OSU has one commitment in the 2018 class thus far in San Antonio’s Jahmyl Jeter. But the more immediate future — the next three years, at least — is incredibly bright.

Justice Hill has (at least) one more year. J.D. King has (at least) two more. And Canadian speedster Chuba Hubbard has yet to get started after taking a redshirt season in 2017.

Sign me up for evolving into a Big Ten team in 2018, Bob. I want to see Hill-King-Chuba getting 20 carries per game next season.

Future grade: A+

  • GeoPoke

    As far as recruiting goes for RB, I think we need one of two: Tyreek Hill speed or The Bus’s strength. We’ve seen some shifty guys back there, but the ones you remember are the ones who can run and get you a hotdog before the next play starts or the ones that can carry your car over their head until you’re out of gameday traffic. Give me all the stock on Chuba and JD going forward.

  • Josh

    Diamond Formation with 2 of the running backs and Spencer Sanders at QB a single cowboy back in motion you could make a lot of big plays with that formation.

    • Guest

      This will be how red zone scoring increases!

      • Russell Wright

        So long as they don’t run the same play every time they go into the Diamond. They really need to change up which back goes into motion and what that leads to so they can have more misdirection/pass plays available in that formation. It’s pretty bad when I can look at the formation and the motion and I know exactly where the play is going.

        • Josh

          100% agree This could really be a great base formation for next year, I personally love having several options out of a single formation rather than screen pass/run between the tackles/ jet flip. BTW I didn’t reply to my own post different Josh

        • oSutoothdoctor

          I wish I could ^ this more. The run game, although successful, could be so much better with some imagination and misdirection. with an unproven QB next year, it would be very helpful if we add some creativity to the run game.

          • Hopefully we’ll see that with the new Analyst that was hired. Would love nothing more than to see him and MY put their heads together and draw up a few new plays 🙂

    • Sonny

      This is what I’ve been saying since I first saw JD King’s HS tape. As good as he is with the ball in hand, he’s also a very good lead blocker. I’ve been hoping to see some sets with both he and Justice in the backfield.

      • Josh Roberts

        Count me in as one of JD King’s biggest supporters, turn the guy loose and let him produce. He’s an old school back that can handle 20+ carries

        • Sonny

          I’m in love with what he could become. He’s only going to get better as he gets bigger, more confident, and MORE CARRIES, GUNDY!

  • Brian Cassens

    Couple that with a good stock of cowboy backs and our O line will have an easier time rebuilding. We will exceed expectations next year.

  • OSU Student

    I will never ever be able to explain King getting over 150 yards and multiple scores on the road vs WVU, and then get the ball a total of 8 times the rest of the entire season, zero times against OU or Kansas. Was he hurt? Did he do something wrong in practice or in the classroom? Doesn’t make sense.

  • Forever 14

    Truly Barry Sanders-like numbers.

    • Bob Schauer

      Whoa…slow down on those Barry Sanders comparisons….there just isn’t anyone that can compare to him.

  • Vince Stephenson

    King should have got more carries. No telling how good Hill would have been down the stretch a lil fresher. And we need more than 15 plays. Defenses can guess and be right enough of the time to make it more difficult than it should be. That goes for run plays and our route tree. Was shocked when we finally realized to move Washington to other spots.

  • Garth Still

    I think they should have gave Hubbard a shot on PR&KR’s. Wouldn’t hurt with his speed,have Stoner up front blockin instead of returns

    • oSutoothdoctor

      But would PR/KR be enough to justify burning his redshirt? I’d say no but I guess there is an argument to be made. Hopefully he gets that shot next year.