Justice Hill on Pace to Become Most-Accomplished OSU Running Back … Ever

Written by Hayden Barber

If Justice Hill continues running like he is, he will become Oklahoma State’s all-time leading rusher on a list that includes Kendall Hunter, Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders.

Hill averages a hair over 101 yards per game. There’s a long way to go, but at that rate he will catch Thomas’ career rushing record of 5,001 yards with two games to spare. And Sanders with more than an entire season to play around with.

Here is what Hill, who has played 23 games so far, is on pace for if he keeps his current averages and stays in school and stays healthy.

 Stat Justice Thurman Barry
Attempts 931 989 558
Yards 5,290 5,001 3,797
Games 52 46 32
Yards/Game 101.7 106.4 118.7
Att/Game 17.9 21.0 17.4
Yards/Att 5.68 5.06 6.80

And to think Hill was a three-star back that wasn’t even offered by his hometown university, Tulsa. Thomas and Sanders are universally considered the top two backs from OSU, but they don’t make up the top of the career rushing list.

Here’s what that looks like.

Although Justice is a ways away from flirting with the top of the ranks, with 2,340 yards he is already less than 400 yards away from catching Keith Toston for 10th. Barring injury, he should be up to the middle of the list by the end of his junior year. And with all that production translating well to the field, Mike Gundy started taking notice after last week’s Bedlam game.

“I’d like for somebody to show me a better running back than five, anywhere,” Gundy said at his weekly presser. “I cant say it for him. He’s not gonna say it, he’s too humble, and he doesn’t hardly talk, but I mean, boy, he’s pretty good.”

He doubled down after Hill gained 134 yards on 25 carries against Iowa State.

“If there’s a better one (than Justice Hill) out there, I’d like to see it,” said Gundy. “I like him. I like what he does.”

Here’s a look at Hill through 10 games this year vs. last year. Basically the exact same numbers, and there are still three (or more) games to go.

Year G Att Yds Avg TD
2016 13 206 1142 5.5 6
2017 10 206 1198 5.8 12

 

The only real gripe against Hill at this point is his touchdown numbers. Through 23 games, he has scored 18 times, which seems pretty outstanding, but comparatively, he’s barely a shade better than half of what the mid-1980s backs did in the same span.

Player Games TDs
Barry 23 32
Thurman 24 31
Justice 23 18

But as I think most of you have gathered already, OSU’s offense looks a lot different in 2017 than it did in 1985.

In Thomas’ wild sophomore season, he ran for 1,650 yards on 327 attempts with 15 touchdowns. The quarterback that season was Ronnie Williams. He threw for 1,757 yards on 291 attempts. He had eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Mason Rudolph has three games left in his senior season, and he has more than double the yards Williams put up and almost three times as many touchdowns.

So in that regard, what Hill has done through 23 games has been a little mind-blowing.

Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has added some emphasis on running the ball since Hill started showing out, and likewise, has piled on the carries even with an able and ready J.D. King behind him.

“He’s our best back, and anytime he’s ready to go, we’re gonna call his number,” Yurcich said after the TCU game when he carried it 25 times, compared to King’s one.

Yurcich is absolutely right about Hill being OSU’s best back, and though Hill probably won’t have a season like Sanders’ 1988 Heisman-winning one, his career has the potential to go down as the school’s best at its best position historically.