Cowboys Postseason Analysis: Running Back

Mike Gundy believes that Oklahoma State must get more production from its running backs and improved offensive line play to fix the Cowboys run-game problems.

The hopes were high in August that junior college standout Chris Carson would be the answer to the Oklahoma State running back woes. Even with an offensive line that was still recovering from a struggling season in 2014 and overcoming recruiting woes including a lengthy list of recruiting mistakes in the upper classes as well as a few that already surfaced in the more recent classes, the hope was that the running game would improve dramatically.

The answer in the opening game at Central Michigan was dramatic. Running the football, at least running it the way Oklahoma State has traditionally run the football, was not going to happen. 

The majority of the season, both in the offensive meeting room and on the practice field, the Cowboys spent time working on ways to improve the conventional ground game and on ways to improvise and smoke and mirror their way to some sort of a rushing attack. 

The offensive line and previous recruiting mistakes caught a good portion of the blame but not all of it.

"The other side of that is, we don’t have the explosive running back in our program like we had (in 2006-12)," Mike Gundy said. "Tie those two things together, and it makes for a difficult running game."

It did, as Oklahoma State ran for 1,649 yards on 460 carries, an average of just 3.6 yards per carry. Here are the numbers for the running backs on the season with the bowl game included:
Chris Carson 131 carries-513-yards-3.9-ypc-4 TD
Raymond Taylor 47 carries-297-yards-6.4-ypc-4 TD
Rennie Childs 72 carries-281-yards-3.9-ypc-2 TD
Jeff Carr 36 carries-142-yards-3.9-ypc-1 TD

Combine the numbers and here is what you have:
OSU Running Backs 286 carries for 1,233 yards-4.3-ypc-11 TD

It doesn't add up to what you need in the running attack. The question begs how to make it better.

The other question or part of the better question is what kind of rushing attack suits each back. Carson seems best suited to downhill, power and iso style of running, but when the Cowboys tried some of that with him it didn't seem to help. Taylor and the freshman Carr both seem to be zone style of runners.

I think they looked like Taylor's 58-yard touchdown run against UTSA. On the play offensive guard Jesse Robinson was knocked down by a defender in the hole and Taylor jumped with a cut back to the other side and caught a defensive end a step too far inside and bolted for the touchdown. 

Oklahoma State is looking for incoming backs like freshman Justice Hill of Tulsa Booker T. Washington and his impressive high school numbers and may sign yet another running back but they have to get more out of what they have.

Gundy thinks Jeff Carr could be vastly improved. 

"He really should have redshirted this season but we decided we needed to use him because of his speed and he scored several touchdowns for us in important games during the season," Gundy analyzed. "He will improve a lot in the offseason and I think he has a bright future."

Carson has another year and I'm convinced there is a good player in there trying to get out. I think he is a tough runner too, but we need to see it.

Childs is a runner that on some days looks and acts the part, but about the time he has you convinced that he needs to get more carries and needs to be the guy then something happens that takes him out of it completely. At times, it has been injury and other times attitude. 

Taylor is a guy that has ability too. He showed it this season but consistency is an issue for him. He needs to be better more often. 

You can look around and try to blame it on the offensive line, but as Gundy said it is a two-fold issue and both ends of it need to be fixed for this football program to get better.

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