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2017 Position Preview: Running Back Group Short on Experience But Not on Talent

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If you’re an OSU football fan, there’s a lot about to be excited about heading into 2017 — especially on offense.

We get to enjoy #Rudolph2Washington for another year and that young, talented receiving corps that’s become an embarrassment of riches, gets even younger and more talented with the injection of playmakers like Tylan Wallace and Shamond Greenwood as well as LSU transfer Tyron Johnson, who will now be eligible.

The offensive line finally seems to figuring things out and returns almost everyone, leaving a nice hole open for whichever running backs line up next to Mason Rudolph.

The running back group will no doubt be the least experienced position group on offense but will not lack playmakers. Here’s a look at the running backs Mike Gundy will have at his disposal.

  • Justice Hill – Sophomore
  • Jeff Carr – Junior
  • Chuba Hubbard – Freshman
  • JD King – Freshman
  • La’Darren Brown – RS Freshman
  • Ja’Ron Wilson – RS Freshman
  • Jakeem Johnson – RS Senior
Justice Hill

Justice Hill is fresh off of a Freshman All-American season in which he broke a few records, gained a lot of yards and gave OSU fans a lot to be excited about moving forward. If Hill continues this upward trajectory, he’ll be a household name nationally by the end of his sophomore season.

Jeff Carr

Behind Hill, Jeff Carr is the only running back slated to be on the 2017 roster with any experience. Carr came in and played immediately as a true freshman in 2015, rushing for 142 yards and getting a lot of burn as a kickoff returner. With a stacked group of seniors behind budding star Justice Hill, Carr’s sophomore season saw his role decrease. But if he’s ever had a chance to prove his worth to the coaching staff, it will start this spring.

Chuba Hubbard

Running backs coach Marcus Arroyo continues to prove his worth on the recruiting trail snagging a couple of studs for the 2017 class. Canadian speedster Chuba Hubbard spoke with our Kyle Boone recently about his expectations for himself coming into next season and they are lofty.

In that interview, Hubbard explained how he’s been working to make himself a more complete back.

“You know everyone talks about my speed,” said Hubbard, “but in my senior season, I worked more on key things to prepare for Oklahoma State, like switching the ball, running harder, hands, etc. Now I feel I can break those long runs but when you need me on the third-and-3, I’ll be able to get that.”

JD King

Alongside Hubbard, the Cowboys welcome another true freshman with some speed in JD King. The George All-State first-team running back. The fact that he went to a Fitzgerald, a smaller 2A school seems to have kept King a bit under the radar.

Here’s an excerpt on Kings fantastic career from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The end of a remarkable prep career: Fitzgerald’s JD King capped his senior season with nearly 6,000 rushing yards and led the Purple Hurricane to two consecutive title game appearances. While it would have been nice to see his career come to an end with at least one title ring, he can hold his head high knowing that he’s one of the few who will continue his career at the next level with a major FBS football program. The AJC Super 11 selection is committed to play for Oklahoma State.

Hubbard and King offer more than just play-making ability. When the two arrive on campus, they’ll be the two biggest running backs on the roster — as true freshmen. King is listed at 5 foot 11 and 205 pounds by 247Sports and Hubbard said he plans to get up to 205 by next summer when he joins OSU.

That’s a big deal since the Cowboys will be without Chris Carson who was the change-of-pace back at 215 pounds and the Cowboys have no one else that’s close.

La’Darren Brown

The Cowboys also list La’Darren Brown the former Desoto, Texas star who red shirted in 2016 and should have a chance to compete for reps.

Brown is really fast — sub-4.40 fast. Like Jeff Carr, Brown came in a little undersized at 5 foot 9 and 170 pounds but has had a year under Rob Glass’ program and could be a sleeper for serious contributions next season, especially in the return game.

Ja’Ron Wilson

Wilson turned down scholarship offers from several schools to walk on at Oklahoma State and now that the mass exodus of seniors has taken place, he has the opportunity to compete for playing time. Wilson put up some big numbers at Texas powerhouse Euless-Trinity and , like Brown, has had a year to develop in OSU’s top grade training program.

Jakeem Johnson

Johnson came from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and red shirted in 2015. After a crowded 2016 group, the walk-on scout-team back may be able to compete for time as a red-shirt senior.

Projection
Depth Chart Player Class
RB1 Justice Hill Sophomore
RB2 Jeff Carr Junior
RB3 Chuba Hubbard Freshman
RB4 JD King Freshman
La’Darren Brown RS Freshman
Ja’Ron Wilson RS Freshman
Jakeem Johnson RS Senior

I could see Carr and Hubbard flipping if Hubbard actually shows up over 200 pounds like he said, just as a change of pace guy.

While there will probably be growing pains, the big-play ability that several of these backs boasts has to have Mike Gundy and his coaching staff salivating. Oklahoma State is headed in the right direction in the running back department and may very well go back to being known a “Tailback U.”

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