Spring Football: Running Backs On The Spot

The running back position this spring at Oklahoma State is all about stepping up. With the early departure of Joseph Randle to the NFL, his sometimes tag team partner in Jeremy Smith must step up to take the primary role. Behind Smith, junior Desmond Roland becomes the second option and maybe the key receiving threat out of the backfield. Finally, this is a paramount spring for Caleb Muncrief.

A late offer and switch from Tulsa in the 2012 recruiting class, the speedy Muncrief is 5-9, 190 pounds and strong with sprinter speed. The question is how well he can avoid defenders. It is key for him to show what he can do this spring as competition is coming in the fall in the form of the talented Texas duo of Houston Cy-Ridge All-Greater Houston runner Rennie Childs and Atlanta All-State performer Corion Webster.

Fullback has also become a major factor for the Cowboys with the increased use of the diamond formation and plenty of two-back sets in the shotgun. There is also some possibility of situations where the Cowboys could bring the quarterback under center.

That makes the return of Kye Staley for a sixth-year of eligibility a huge bonus. Staley's determination to come all the way back from a devastating knee injury has been an inspiration to teammates and his ability to contribute has been something fans have marveled at.

Young pups like Dominic Ramacher and walk-ons like Teddy Johnson and Derek Branson will need to pay close attention while learning the role as Staley won't get a seventh season.

Back to the running back position, Smith has been considered the better inside runner and Randle the better outside runner and pass catcher over the past two seasons of sharing the running back position.

Last season, Smith carried 70 times for 371 yards and eight touchdowns. His career totals of 232 carries for 1,440 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns is solid work. His career per carry average is 6.2 yards per carry, better than Randle's average of 5.5.

Smith has yearned to be the flagship ball carrier and his work ethic has been evident following a bout with doubt in the spring of his freshman year. He is rock hard, strong, and an example other players follow in the weight room.

Smith is also the kind of guy you really root for. He is one of those good locker room guys. If there is something he really needs to work on it would be catching passes. That is a role he has struggled with in his time in Stillwater.

Roland came to OSU as a freshman and outperformed well-hyped freshman teammate Herschel Sims to catch Mike Gundy's attention. Roland got early carries that season before Sims moved ahead of him on the depth chart.

After a solid freshman season, Roland rushed for 301 yards as a sophomore and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. He made a huge play in the loss to Big 12 champion Kansas State when he followed the Wildcats' Tyler Lockett's kickoff return for a touchdown with an 80-yard return for a Cowboys touchdown. At 6-2, 210 pounds, he is a big target and an explosive athlete.

We already documented the job Muncrief has ahead of him this spring. Behind Muncrief is a really talented walk-on in Corey Bennett. The 5-9, 190-pound Bennett is popular with teammates and he was a standout in the events helping quarterback Clint Chelf's team to the Competition Day championship. Last season Bennett carried 12 times for 91 yards and a touchdown.

Running back is a position that appears to be in good shape and a strength for the upcoming 2013 season if everybody will just take a step up.

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