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Could Other Stars Staying in School Influence Chuba Hubbard?

30 … back?

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For the past several months, I’ve thought that Chuba Hubbard would leave Oklahoma State for the NFL. It’s an easy thing to think. “Why in the world,” one friend asked me the other day, “would he return to OSU for another year?”

This has more or less been my line of thinking as well. Very rarely does someone who is the best in the nation at something return to school for another year, even more so if that player is taking a pounding like running backs do. And yet, OSU fans have two things working for them in Chuba’s case (which is still up in the air).

The first is that — as we’ve been discussing on our forum (+) — Chuba’s grade from the NFL wasn’t an auto-turn pro grade (Boone had a little more on that here (+)). It was more middling. The NFL cares a lot less about numbers than you and I do and a lot more about what’s on tape, and apparently what’s on tape can get better for Chuba.

This in some ways makes sense. He’s been doing this at a high level for a shorter period of time than most. From Canadian high school football — which may or may not be equivalent to eight-man football in Oklahoma — to just one year as the starter in Stillwater, it’s not infeasible that there are X categories in which he could improve 10 or 15 percent (this is terrifying for opposing defenses by the way).

The second — and more pertinent to Monday specifically — is that there has been a recent trend of superstars returning for another year. It started with Ohio State defensive back Shaun Wade, a projected first-round pick who chose to return to Ohio State. Chuba Hubbard is a lot of things. He’s not a projected first-round pick.

Here’s what Wade said about his decision, according to 11 Warriors.

“At the end of the day, I’m just trying to get to the natty,” Wade said in October when asked about his impending NFL draft decision. “That’s my dream, for real. Just to win the natty.”

No reasonable person thinks OSU is going to win a natty, but a Big 12 title is not an impossibility, especially with all the other pieces — second-year QB, star wideout and potentially elite defense — in place. That’s this OSU’s version of a natty.

But Wade’s not the only superstar returning to school. A lot of people are presuming that Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa will announce that he’s returning to Alabama for a senior year, even though he would almost certainly be a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft. There’s obviously some injury stuff going on there so maybe it’s not fair to compare that to Chuba’s situation, but it still represents another example of a player projected way ahead of Chuba (probably) coming back to school.

(UPDATE: I’m a moron. Tua left. But still … Wade!)

It gets easier to make a decision that feels counterintuitive when you see other players who are as good as you or even better doing the same.

I have now flipped on all of this. I think Chuba will return. That’s part reporting, part feel and part hope (if I’m being honest). We’ll know later this week what 30 decides to do, and in a month known for recruiting news and decisions, OSU’s most important commitment could be from somebody who has already accomplished so much in an OSU uniform.

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