GoPokes TV: Run Game Will Be Focus In Spring

After struggling throughout the 2015 season Oklahoma State will be focusing its efforts this on improving the run game during spring practice, which began Monday.

When the school that was once identified throughout college football as "Tailback U." for the exploits of players ranging from Bob Fenimore in the war years, to Terry Miller, to Thurman Thomas, and on to Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders is now averaging a paltry 3.6 yards per carry on the ground and just 126.8 yards a game then something has to change.

It is time to sound the alarm. After last season and maybe one of the worst run game efforts coming in the Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss as the Cowboys mustered only 63 rushing yards then you can darn well expect the focal point of the spring on offense to be the run game. If you don't make improvements in the spring, even with Barry J. Sanders coming as a senior transfer in the summer from Stanford, then you likely won't improve much in the fall.

The Cowboys stellar wide receiver James Washington admits the receivers need to block better and he wants a better run game to compliment quarterback Mason Rudolph throwing him long balls down the sideline.

"I feel that it all starts with the line, and then gradually from there it will go to the receiver core," Washington said when asked about the run game. "As receivers, we have to become better blockers on the perimeter in order to help the running game. It should improve the running game, and from there the passing game will improve as well."

So, how concerned about the run game is Mike Gundy? He spoke about it every week last season, even each week as the Cowboys started with a 10-game winning streak. He is still talking about the run game.

"Well, I'm always concerned about it. We all know that most offenses go as your quarterback goes," Gundy explained. "At some point, you have to be able to establish some running game and have the balance that allows you to be able to throw the ball.

"Defenses have made some strides in the last three years or so with spreading out offenses, so you need to have somebody who can run the ball and make a play. In most cases, if you look at our game, the guy running the ball has to run through somebody that's a halfway player. There's going to be some sort of contact at three to five yards, so he's either going to have to run through him or make him miss.

"Most defenses aren't going to play five-man boxes and allow you to just rush the football. Your schemes are certainly one part of it, but the second part of it is that you've got to have guys who can run through tackles and force defenses to play against the run," he said.

The first step to improving the run game may have been seen on the field Monday for the first time as newcomer and junior college All-American Larry Williams was out there with the offensive line. The 6-4, 318-pound Williams looks like he will help, but it would be nice to see improvement and more help from a lot of other offensive linemen.

"Well, improvement obviously and a mindset of toughness coming off of the ball from technique to finish," offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said before practice. "The basic thing is overall depth competition and to be able to establish a depth chart this spring. Those are the most important things to be able to evaluate, and that is what we are looking to accomplish this spring with the offensive line."

Gundy said he greeted his staff Monday morning with this goal and challenge, "Let's have 12 really good practice this spring of our base offense going against our base defense."

Gundy explained that there are several practices in the spring like the first one in shorts where you really can't do that. It is non-contact but the goal the rest of the way fits right in with constantly testing and pushing the run offense to get better. There are 14 more practices over the next five weeks to find out if it's going to happen this spring and what the chances are of running the ball good this fall with the son of a legend or with any of the Cowboys running backs.

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