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Spring Preview: Who Will Emerge from a Group of Talented at Running Backs?

The Cowboys have options.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

One of the biggest questions facing Mike Gundy and his staff is how to pump life into a run game that was anemic in 2022. Oklahoma State ranked ninth in the Big 12 rushing for just 126 yards per game, the Cowboys’ lowest mark since 2001.

As with most position groups in the portal era, evaluating talent at RB will be even more crucial as the Cowboys try to this figure out what they have in an experienced newcomer and some rising underclassmen. Let’s take a look at the position group as spring gets started.

Be sure to check out our spring QB preview.

Who’s Gone

The Cowboys will be without last year’s RB1 Dominic Richardson who will suit up for Baylor next season. He was a steady back on an offense that struggled to run the ball effectively and then was limited by injury. But Richardson showed spurts of promise with a handful of big games over his first three years in Stillwater.

Both CJ Brown and Zach Middleton are also out, but Brown didn’t see action as a true freshman last year and Middleton mustered only two yards on five attempts last season, primarily being used as a goal-line full back.

Who’s Back

Ollie Gordon was one of the few bright spots for the Cowboys after Richardson went down. Gordon showed his propensity to make plays early in the year and then showed out down the stretch, specifically a 17-carry, 136-yard outing against West Virginia.

Jaden Nixon is another underclassman that’s shown plenty of promise. He’s been an effective change-of-pace back and a lethal special teams weapon over his first two years. Look for him to take another step in 2023.

Who’s Entering the Mix

Help is on the way with former Michigan State rusher Elijah Collins on campus. Collins had a breakout year as a redshirt freshman in 2019 when he racked up 988 yards and five scores for the Spartans. After being bitten by the injury bug, he managed just 510 yards in 24 games the last three seasons. But he’s a proven producer with more experience than any other running back on the roster. Expect him to vie for handoffs.

Spring Depth Chart Prediction

Here’s how I see things shaking out this fall.

RB1: Ollie Gordon
RB2: Elijah Collins
RB3: Jaden Nixon
RB4: Deondre Jackson

Running Back Outlook

I gave Gordon a slight edge based on last year’s progress, but there are a lot of practices between now and Sept. 2. And more importantly, without a clear RB1 coming into the spring, there is always the possibility that OSU uses more of a rusher-by-committee approach. All of the four listed above can make plays. Hopefully for OSU, one will emerge as a game-changer a la Jaylen Warren in 2021.

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