2014 Season Review: Running Backs

When Mike Gundy looked at James Castleman walking into the Oklahoma State Senior Football Banquet and made the declaration that he was going to guarantee that they would use the 300-pounder's athleticism to carry the ball and play offense in the Cactus Bowl, do you think the OSU head coach may have been thinking he may need Castleman because he would be running out of running backs?

Probably not, Gundy was just reminded of Castleman's prowess and ball skills in basketball when he was being recruited. It was four days later that speedster Tyreek Hill, who rushed for over 500 yards but was not a huge impact at running back most of the season, was arrested on a domestic assault charge that would lead to his dismissal. Gundy still had senior starter Desmond Roland and injured some and healthy some backup Rennie Childs.

Castleman proved flash with his one-yard touchdown out of the "Fat Cat" set and long run and reception in the fourth quarter, but it was Roland who carried 32 times for 127 yards that earned Offensive Player of the Game in the win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl.

Unfortunatley, most of the season was not what the Cowboys expect with their run offense. With J.W. Walsh running at quarterback, the Cowboys ran for 161 yards against top-ranked and defending national champion Florida State in the opener. Walsh had 81 yards in the contest.

Walsh's injury in the second game had a huge impact on the run offense as following the 274-yards rushing against Missouri State the Cowboys ran for 162 yards against UTSA, 158 against Texas Tech, 129 vs. Iowa State, only 91 yards at Kansas, 126 at TCU, 194 yards against West Virginia, 112 at Kansas State, a paltry 34 yards vs. Texas, 116 at Baylor, and 112 in Bedlam.

There was not a 100-yard rusher until Roland's effort in the bowl game. That is not what Oklahoma State expects with its ground game. This is still "Tailback U." and Mike Gundy is still head coach and determined to pound the rock on his terms.

The offensive line being in a developmental season also contributed to the struggles. In fall camp the Cowboys lost a very promising ball carrier as freshman Sione Palelei had show up really well but suffered back-to-back injuries that eventually led him to a redshirt season.

The huge positive at the end of the year in the overtime Bedlam win and in the bowl win that saw Roland ran extremely tough. After dealing with injuries and then the death of his mother, Roland wrote a very positive ending to his Cowboy career. He earned that and he willed it. The highlight in the run offense was the finish by Roland.

Now, as well documented, Childs is the only returning running back with more than 18 carries. The "help wanted" sign is posted and the positive, very big positive, is the offensive line is improving, and also adding some high quality and mature additions for next season.

As previously posted, running backs is a huge key recruiting target down the stretch.

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