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Cox: Three OSU Running Backs I Wish Had One More Year

What if you had waivers to hand out?

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The NCAA is allowing student-athletes an additional year of eligibility. It’s one of the few silver linings we can point to as the heavy cloud of COVID dissipates.

That got me thinking: What if you could go back in time and grant a one-time, one-year waiver to any OSU rusher, without that whole global pandemic caveat?

That’s the idea with this list. It’s more than just saying give me one more year of Barry Sanders. Instead, let’s look at the situation the program was in after a player left and how he could have impacted it in that additional year.

That being said, I have to start with the 🐐.

1. Barry Sanders: 1989

We all know (or most agree) that the 1988 Heisman winner is the one of the greatest college football players ever, and there’s a strong case to be made for him being the best amateur athlete to ever tote the rock.

Barry was off to the NFL following his historic junior season and quickly found his way onto Wheaties boxes and into classic Chris Berman highlight rants. But imagine if he had played one (or two) more seasons in Stillwater.

An Extra Year Means: A Delayed Downspin and Maybe More

Sanders’ departure signaled the end of the then-glory days for OSU. Consecutive 10-win seasons in 1987 and 1988 gave way to consecutive four-win seasons, immediately followed by a forgettable 0-10-1 season in 1991.

Barry’s exit also coincided with sanctions the NCAA dropped on OSU surrounding the recruitment of his teammate, Hart Lee Dykes. You can’t ignore that. Pat Jones never had another winning season at OSU.

But add Barry to that 1989 team and OSU could win seven or eight games instead of four. Who knows how that would have shaped the program’s history moving forward.

2. Joseph Randle: 2013

Off-field struggles and the hapless end to Randle’s NFL career seem to have diminished his legacy among OSU rushers, but on the field Randle was the dynamo that made OSU’s vaunted 2011 offensive machine go.

As part of a Big 3 that included Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, Randle racked up over 1,200 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground. A year later, he led the Big 12 with another 1,400-plus and 14 scores.

In case you needed a reminder of just how ridiculous Joe was, I’ll dust off a couple of my favorite clips from the vault.

An Extra Year Means: Another Big 12 Title?

A year later, Randle decided to follow Weeden and Blackmon to the NFL which started a three-year drought of 1,000-yard rushers at OSU.

In 2013, despite riding the QB carousel between Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh and relying on more of a 1-2 punch from Desmond Roland and Jeremy Smith, OSU was this close — and I mean THIS CLOSE — to a Big 12 ‘chip. I could see Gundy riding Randle in ’13 like he did Chuba in ’19, all the way to a second league trophy in three years.

3. Chuba Hubbard: 2021

I’ve doled out all three fictional waivers to tailbacks that left eligibility on the table. But let’s face it, that’s what big time players normally do, and I want big time players.

Chuba hasn’t even gone through an NFL training camp yet and I’m already lamenting his departure. Heck, just give me last year back — but with a healthy Hubbard — and I think the Pokes’ win total increases.

An Extra Year Means: Who Knows

Spencer Sanders will be in Year 3 as QB1 but will be without his two best weapons with Tylan Wallace also off to play on Sundays. (I imagine he’ll appear in the receiver iteration of this series.) This will be the first time since 2014 that the Pokes have had to replace both their leading rusher and receiver in the same offseason.

I’m excited to see what LD Brown looks like with RB1 credentials — and the Pokes have plenty of intriguing candidates to tote the rock this year — but, much like 2013, I think the Cowboys could squeeze a bit more out of said stone if they started with a proven superstar.

I think there’s plenty to be excited about when you look at an RB group that also includes Dezmon Jackson, Dominic Richardson, as well as transfer Jaylen Warren, but give me the proven record-breaker and the Cowboys’ ceiling in 2021 is sky high.

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