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.

  • zachattachone

    Justice is awesome, and already one of my favorite OSU players of all time, but there is a better one out there this year and his name is Bryce Love and he’s going to finish second in the heisman. He’s averaging 9.0 yards-a-carry for crying out loud. He’s got 400+ more rushing yards than justice on 25 fewer carries.

    Yes his offensive line is much better, but he also plays in a one-dimensional offense where everyone knows he is getting the ball most of the time. Love doesn’t have the luxury of a competent QB.

    • Iceman

      This is accurate and what people ignore about Hill. The fact is he’s phenomenal in open space. Problem is I don’t think he creates that space all that much. Having extraordinary receivers and a prolific passing attack open him up for big plays. I mean his best play is consistently the draw. He’s a great back and I think deserves to be considered in the top 5 best OSU running backs in history but saying he’s the best in the nation is more overhype and perception bias than factual. Regardless, you couldn’t pick a more perfect back skill set wise to compliment our passing attack. If that passing attack goes away next year I think Hill’s total production and YPC decrease dramatically. Still a great back but if I was drafting a team of OSU running backs I’m taking Barry, Thurman, Hunter or Randle.

      • Bob Schauer

        I agree with a lot of your comment, and right now, after about a season and a half, I’d agree on your order of RBs. After another season or two, that could change. He could rise to third after Barry and Thurman, depending on how he does in the future.

        • Iceman

          That’s true. He could certainly change my mind before he’s done here. To me he’s just not a complete enough back yet to put him over some of the others. He’s great at what he does but he isn’t as versatile as the best. I hope he is able to expand his utility more into the passing game and get better between the tackles. If he can do that I think he’ll overtake some of the others.

    • David

      There’s a reason McCaffrey ran so well at Stanford.

  • Hyperbole much?

    Wow. He’s already won the Heisman Trophy? Oops, no. He’s already played in four Super Bowls and been elected to the NFL Hall of Fame. Oops, no.

    • You’re cool

      This is in the context of career at osu dumbass

      • Hyperbole much?

        That’s Mister Dumbass to you, pencil-dick.

        • You’re cool

          quick maths

  • Zombie Willham

    You do realize that Barry Sanders only really played for one year? And that in that one year, he frequently only played between one half or three quarters?

    • Chris Putnam

      Barry had 605 yards rushing as a sophomore and scored I think 13 Tds and was named an All American as a kick returner, thus he played more than 1 year.
      As well, his Heisman year he played most the games deep into the 4th quarter because our defense was so bad that games were tight. For example, in 1988 OSU beat Iowa St 49-27 , but entering the 4th ISU lead 27-21 before sanders ran for 170 yards in final period. Saying that Sanders did not play much in the second half is simply not true.

      • Chris Stover

        Barry sat out of several 4th quarter s though.

      • Bob Schauer

        That’s true, Chris, but he only started 14 games (2 in his Soph year when Thurman was hurt, 12 his junior year. So he only really had one year as the starting tailback. That’s obviously what Zombie was talking about.

        • Chris Putnam

          He did not state ‘starting’. He said played. Don’t try to interpret.

          • Bob Schauer

            Don’t be so snarky. I merely pointed out the obvious…a starter gets a lot more carries, so if he isn’t starting it’s an apples and oranges comparison.

          • Chris Putnam

            It isn’t obvious. He said played not started. In 1987 Sanders had more all purpose yards than any individual on the 2017 team except Hill and Washington. He OBVIUOSLY played a lot.

          • Bob Schauer

            Most of his all-purpose yards came on kick and punt returns, including a 100 yard KO return on the season opening KO vs Tulsa. And as I mentioned, he did start two games when Thurman was hurt and had more than 150 yards in both those games. The rest of the time, he had very few carries as a primary RB because of Thurman. You are welcome to keep on beating your dead horse, though.

          • Chris Putnam

            All I am saying is that he played. I never said start. I never said feature back. Go jump off a cliff moron.

          • Bob Schauer

            Funny…when you’ve lost the argument, resort to insults, huh, Chris? You need to do some growing up. Have a nice life when you do.

          • Chris Putnam

            Sanders had 138 touches in 1987. You act like he sat on the bench and redshirted. I guarantee I have a nicer life than you do.

  • OSU Student

    How many many of our offensive linemen return next year? Washington leaving won’t hurt them at all, they can literally plug and chug in his absence. They’re deeper than the marina trench at receiver. Mason leaving is a cause for concern, but if the line is still in tact and improved next season, whoever is QB (probably/hopefully Sanders) should have a relatively easy transition. Good O-line, studs filling up the backfield, stars all over the place at receiver. Sanders could bring an even more difficult dimension to our offense if he can handle the college transition, because he’s such an elusive runner. Our offense would still be a tough one to handle.

    • Chris Putnam

      You must be buying orange Kool-Aid by the pallet.

      • OSU Student

        And you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, according to your comments.

        • Chris Putnam

          No, I am all for being positive but we currently have a team that we thought would play for theBig XII title and more but now stand waiting for s big upset to get there. You state that whoever starts at Qb will have an easy transition. Really? I wish I could wear your orange colored sunglasses and think we’ll be even better NEXT year!

          • OSU Student

            Not referring to your comment towards me, referring to the shade you’re giving out all over the place in these other people’s comments. lol. Cheer up buttercup!

          • OSU Student

            By the way, I said he “should have a relatively easy transition”. ‘Should”, a word meaning there’s a decent chance, and “relatively”, a word meaning, when compared to other freshman being thrown into the fire, his transition ‘should’ be easier when you ‘relate’ it to other first time starters at other universities.

            I also didn’t say we’d be better. I said our offense would still be tough to handle. Whoopsie.

    • Chris Putnam

      We lose on OL
      Unknown if Larry Williams will get a medical redshirt.

      • OSU Student

        I guess I should have said “how many linemen who have started a game return next year?” Since we’ve had 82 linemen start at least once this year it seems.

  • Terry

    I would include Terry Miller in this group. Two trips as a Heisman finalist, and a second place to Earl Campbell are stats worth mentioning.

    • Forever 14

      Miller actually won more Heisman votes than Campbell in the region that contained both schools. Coastal votes based on UT reputation carried the day for Campbell. People that actually saw both play voted mostly for Miller.

  • Travis Kibler

    He’ll probably be a heck a RB in the NFL too.

  • Scott

    I doubt his usage rate will be at the same level next year. He will probably share a bit more of the carries with the younger guys.

    • Iceman

      Let’s pray this is the case because the dude isn’t gonna survive multiple years at this amount of usage. Hopefully the coaching staff realizes this and we utilize our depth more. King is already better than Carson was in my opinion but the guy can’t hardly get a carry this year.

      • Bob Schauer

        Carson was very good down the stretch last year, Iceman. King is not better than THAT Carson yet, but probably will be next season.

  • Bbjd

    I don’t feel very confident he will be here in 2019. Running backs leave as soon as they can and I see no reason Justice will be any different.

    • Darth

      Good point. If his Junior campaign resembles this year, he’d leave the school with numbers somewhere between Sanders and Hunter.

      • Bob Schauer

        He probably will declare for the draft after next season, unless injured (like Thurman was). That’s why it’s good to have King, Brown and Hubbard…even Wilson.

        • Spencer Thomas McIntosh

          Unless he wants to play a couple years with his brother!! Fingers crossed!

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  • Alum in AZ

    Last year, Justice was Big XII newcomer of the year and 2nd team All-Conference running back. He’s clearly first team all-conference RB this year. Any chance he could be our first 4-time all-conference player beginning as a true freshman? Or have we had those before at RB or any other position?

    • Chris Putnam

      That’s a good question. I can’t think of anyone who was 4 year all conference.

  • Troy

    I remember Ronnie Williams. He was a terrible QB but tuned out to be an okay wide receiver.

  • WN

    I understand this is in the context of career numbers, but it seems blasphemous to put anybody on the same pedestal as Barry Sanders, in any context. Having said that, Justice Hill is special.

  • dooley23

    He hasn’t even completed two seasons and he’d have to keep this up for all 4 to compete with the top of the list, and that top played less games (so * possible if he does get there).

    Ultimately though this article gets a win because it did make me watch highlights of Barry Sanders, and there is no back in the history of football that is as good as that guy. It was insane what he could do. How quickly he could make a cut, and how fast it took him to be at top speed. Unbelievable. Lucky to watch him play.

  • frankwick

    Hill will get more carries next year than this. Our o-line will be better and our QB will be inexperienced.

  • OSU Student

    Hill was, and is, a better college back than Carson. But I don’t think that will be the case in the NFL. Hill is small combared to most backs, and he may get pretty banged up. Carson is a hoss who was shining as a starter for the run-heavy Seahawks, until his freak accident. Yes, I realize I said hill would get banged up because he is small and then said Carson is huge, but his injury had nothing to do with him being small. It was a freak situation with 300+ pounds of force shoving his leg in the wrong direction.