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‘He’s a Workhorse’: Big 12 Coaches Talk Oklahoma State Running Back Ollie Gordon

‘He’s big. He’s strong. And he just keeps going. He just keeps going.’

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon II enters 2024 as one of the most hyped skill players in the country, but this time last year he was a mostly unknown commodity outside of Stillwater. A couple of Big 12 coaches got to see Gordon as he started to make the turn from national unknown to star and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham got the first look at Gordon compared to most of his colleagues before he was even in the league. In Week 2 last season, Arizona State, which was still in the Pac-12 at the time, hosted OSU.

The Cowboys, still figuring out who to hand it off to full-time, beat the Sun Devils 27-15 with an RB-by-committee approach. Gordon ended with nine carries for 53 yards against the Sun Devils, sharing the load with Jaden Nixon and Elijah Collins.

But Dillingham saw enough from Gordon that his ascension was no surprise.

“No, I mean, he was great when we watched a little bit of film on him, and he was great when we played him,” Dillingham said during Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday. “And the challenging thing is he’s a workhorse, man.

“He’s big. He’s strong. And he just keeps going. He just keeps going. They can keep giving him the ball. And I think that’s challenging. And he wears on you throughout a football game. And I think that’s the philosophy Coach Gundy has built there. And I think he really fits that mold. That’s the style of running back they consistently recruit. And he’s a really, really good football player.”

Kansas State coach Chris Klieman got his first real look at Gordon a couple of weeks later, fresh off Gordon’s first 100-yard game of the season and just as the Cowboys had started to run their offense through him.

Gordon’s 136 yards against the Wildcats helped earn the Pokes their first conference win of the season. His touchdown in the first quarter put OSU up 7-0, and the Cowboys never gave up that lead and went on to rattle off five-straight wins in his wake.

“He’s a tremendous talent,” Klieman said. “He’s got really good speed. He’s a home run hitter, as well as he can run through arm tackles.

“He had a breakout season and it started around our game, and he continued to elevate. He’s a terrific football player, and we’re glad we play him in Manhattan and not Stillwater.”

Regardless of where they face him, Big 12 coaches have to account for No. 0. From the inside, OSU coach Mike Gundy knows what a difference his star running back makes. He mentioned on Tuesday how having that caliber of rusher can raise the play of the rest of your team, including benefiting OSU’s passing game last year.

“It’s a numbers game,” Gundy said. “You can get him up there and stop him. You can let him rush and stay back, or you can try to play guessing games, which most people do. But basically, you have to get somebody else back down there to stop the run. That’s the advantage of having a good running back — allows your receivers to be much better players.”

Gundy also announced at Big 12 Media Days in Las Vegas that Gordon will not miss any game reps for his DUI-related arrest June 30 and that discipline would take place internally. So there will be little reprieve for either Dillingham or Klieman or any of the other Big 12 coaches on OSU’s schedule.

“That’s the nature of our league,” Klieman said. “You’re going to face really talented running backs each week. You’ll face talented quarterbacks, and you’ve got to stay healthy and you’ve got to do a great job of trying to eliminate explosive plays, and last year Ollie got us on a couple of big ones, and we’ve got to prevent that.”

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