Spring Football: Backs Ready To Make Plays

STILLWATER - With an eye toward sharpening the offense and the execution in the run game and short passing game, the Oklahoma State Cowboys got back to work with week four of spring practice. Monday's workout was number 10 of the allotted 15 practices by the NCAA.

Other than some extra wind, the cloud cover keeping the heat down a little made for near perfect practice conditions. It was a good day to check out the running backs, who with all the talk about the new offense and passing attack have been unfairly and incorrectly forgotten.

There is no doubt that this offense is different, a vast departure from what the Cowboys have run in modern times which has ranged from the wishbone, to the I veer, pro-formation, power I, Fedora spread, Gundy blend, and now the spread.

It will be hard to think about Oklahoma State as "Tailback U" next fall. but the running backs aren't crying about the change in offense.

"This is a good opportunity for me and I've been waiting behind some good backs this year," said sophomore Travis Miller.

"We've got a new offense in and it fits me a lot because I've got speed and I've got shiftiness and I'm really ready for this offense and this season to start. I'm very confident that I am going to fit into this offense," Miller added.

The beautiful aspect of this is that new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen is a little more receptive to running the ball than his mentor, former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.

Holgorsen will use a variety of ways to get the ball in the hands of the backs, some traditional and some inventive. He also like the backs from Kendall Hunter to Miller, to Jeremy Smith to fullback and blocking-style powerback Bryant Ward.

"We're locating the guys that have the ability for us to count on, and once we located those guys for us to count in those spots," said Holgorsen of the search for the playmakers on offense, "we have to get those guys understand that consistency is the way you win games."

So, does Hunter enjoy this new offense? He kind of nods when he is asked and smiles big. Holgorsen will tell you it's hard to know for sure.

"I have no idea because he doesn't talk to me either. Doesn't say a word," said Holgorsen shaking his head. "I know I like what I see when we hand him or throw him the ball.

"Kendall is the type of kid and type of running back that would be good in any system. If you are a power I team then I think he'd do it pretty good. If you are a four or five wide team, he could be the back or even be a receiver.

"He has a tremendous amount of ability and he is going to get the ball a bunch, makes things happen, and it's going to be fun to watch," said Holgorsen.

Coming off the scrimmage of last week, Miller feels like the offense is coming along but there are still a few bug-a-boos.

"We had little mistakes that we can work on but for the most part we did a couple of explosive plays," said a happy Miller. "For the running backs we have things we need to work on and from the whole team perspective on offense we have a lot of work to do."

Miller should really be effective and comfortable in the offense, maybe more comfortable than any of the backs because in high school at Marlin, Texas he was a wide receiver most of the time.

"It works both ways. In high school I played wide receiver a lot but now I get to work again on my catching out of the backfield," explained Miller. "In high school I may have played wide receiver but I still need to get more work on my catching the ball.

"This is a pretty easy offense in that we have not that many plays but a lot of ways to run them," continued Miller now talking about learning the system which the offensive players have seemed to do pretty well.

"So everybody is catching on but we just have a lot more work to do. I'm getting more comfortable with it and all of the motions. I'm more confident now that it fits us, fits the running backs."

Hunter was hurt most of last season and only rushed for 382yards and caught 11 p asses for 83 yards. Miller rushed for 59y ards and did not catch a single pass. In looking at the future, Holgorsen feels like Miller can have a sizeable impact on the offense.

"He is a lot like Kendall, you know, he is the smaller, shifty kind of guy that is low, starts and stops, and what we've seen out him in the first eight practices," said Holgorsen. "He's not in the league of Kendall Hunter yet, but, at times, I can't tell which one is which."

Miller had another good practice Monday, as did Hunter, Jeremy Smith and Dexter Pratt. Ward is out of practice with an injury and David Paulsen is flotating back some from H-back to provide some big back support.

The Cowboys are scheduled to practice again Wednesday afternoon and it is expected to be another scrimmage, the second of the spring.

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