The Need For Running Backs At Tailback U.

After a week of coming into contact with Oklahoma State fans in the daily course of life, including Christmas shopping this time of year, there is no doubt that last Sunday's Twitter announcement from Texas four-star standout recruiting prospect Ronald Jones II of McKinney North High School left Cowboys fans distraught about running back recruiting.

Honestly, in the less than real world of recruiting rankings, stars, and daily commits and de-commits, Jones' pledge to OSU made after a spring break visit with his family including his sister, who attends Oklahoma State, had been a source of pride on the recruiting front.

It carried some OSU fans emotionally through the five-game losing streak the Cowboys went on before the relief of the 38-35 overtime win over Oklahoma in Bedlam. The fans knew help was on the way in the form of the 2,008-yard rusher with 28 touchdowns as a senior, the mix between hard running slasher and dancing speedster was going to be a Cowboy until last Sunday night.

McKinney North's exit from the playoffs in the form of a wild 64-40 loss to Tyler John Tyler, in which Jones still rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns, left Jones time to squeeze in two visits that he had asked Oklahoma State coaches if he could make to USC and Notre Dame. USC and Notre Dame were playing for keeps.

Both schools reportedly heaped on the negatives on Oklahoma State and then Sunday the news the once "100 percent committed to the Cowboys" Jones had opened up his recruiting.

My prediction is that OSU and the other schools in this new age of power conferences and more importantly and dramatic College Football Playoffs that recruiting will become even more cutthroat. Commitments will be honored less than ever by schools and recruiting will be more competitive than ever, if that is even possible.

Jones' case and what could follow may be a good example.

OSU has the reputation and tradition of "Tailback U." This is the school that produced Pro Football Hall of Famers, All-Americans, Thurman Thomas and the gold-standard for all running backs in Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders.

Recent Cowboys standouts like Kendall Hunter, Joe Randle and Dantrell Savage have been or are currently running in the NFL. Yet the Cowboys don't have a running back currently committed in their recruiting class now that Jones de-committed.

The current roster situation shows with the recent dismissal of the speedy Tyreek Hill and with starting running back Desmond Roland playing in his final game as a senior in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl that OSU returns Rennie Childs as the only scholarship running back for spring football.

In other words, Tailback U. with a newfound standout quarterback in Mason Rudolph, plenty of receivers and an emerging offensive line with new players set to compete and push the performance even further has a "help wanted" sign hanging for running back recruits.

It's interesting to note that when Ronald Jones II committed that mentioned as one of his top priorities in a school was immediate playing time. The Cowboys hope to be in play for Jones' and he is still slated to visit on Jan. 16.

The only verified news on Jones' recruiting is coming from his Twitter account. His high school coach has not commented in a while and Jones had not spoken with a reporter on recruiting since October, at least he has not be quoted since then.

Obviously with their depth situation Oklahoma State has immediate playing time available. In fact, here is a look at where the Big 12's bowl participating schools and some other area bowl participants are with running back depth heading toward next season. Players looking for immediate opportunities should zero in on Oklahoma State, Texas, and Kansas State. The others look to be pretty well situated.

Returning Running Back Depth Numbers
for Big 12 Bowl Schools and Selected Others

Arkansas returns 4 of their top 5 rushers in 2014
Baylor returns all of their top 4 rushers in 2014
Kansas State returns 1 of their top 2 rushers in 2014, plus RS Delvin Warmack±
LSU returns 2 of their top 4 rushers in 2014
Notre Dame returns 2 of their top 3 rushers in 2014<
Oklahoma State returns 1 of their top 3 rushers in 2014<
Oklahoma returns their top 3 rushers in 2014, plus RS Joe Mixon
Southern Cal returns all of their top 4 rushers in 2014
Texas returns 1 of their top 2 rushers in 2014
Texas A&M returns all of their top 4 rushers in 2014
TCU returns all of their top 4 rushers in 2014
West Virginia returns 4 of their top 5 rushers in 2014

Following the bowl season the recruiting opens up again for the stretch drive to the Feb 4 signing day and several schools including Oklahoma State are going to be putting a premium on recruiting a position that has lost some luster in recent years with the spread offense and a lack of numbers in the first round of the NFL Draft. But running backs will be quite popular in the month of January around Stillwater and some other locales.

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