STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Mike Gundy is heading into his 17th year as Oklahoma State’s head coach, and he believes he has his best depth at running back.
In the first depth chart released before the Sept. 4 opener against Missouri State, there are four backs listed on the starter line -- LD Brown, Dezmon Jackson, Dominic Richardson and transfer Jaylen Warren.
Gundy said the logjam is the result of a lack of separation, not a lack of talent. He said the players will rotate as they try to fill the void left by Chuba Hubbard, who now plays for the Carolina Panthers.
“We’re very fortunate because we have a number of guys we trust who can carry the ball and be effective for us at the running back spot,” Gundy said. “I’ve never had the luxury of having this many backs.”
Jackson made the biggest splash last season. With Hubbard and Brown out against Texas Tech, Jackson ran 36 times for 235 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start. He ran for 118 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries the next week against TCU.
Gundy said having one back carry that much of the load is unlikely this season.
“If we have 40 rushes a game, the perfect scenario would be 10s across the board,” he said. “Will it happen that way? I doubt it. If somebody gets hot, they’ll stay, but we do have the luxury of not letting one player get completely fatigued, and/or getting beat up throughout the season.”
Jackson finished second on the team with 547 yards rushing last season. He’s ready for whatever comes his way this year.
“I feel like when I get my snaps, I just make every one count," he said. "I’m just ready at all times. And I think all of us can bring so much to the room.”
Brown is the most experienced returning back. The speedster ran for 437 yards last season and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. His 66-yard touchdown run against West Virginia was the longest rushing play of last season for Oklahoma State. He has 1,044 yards and eight touchdowns in his career.
His experience has earned him a role as a team leader.
“The guys -- they lean on me for stuff,” he said. “You can get that sense of -- they watch how you do stuff. They try to mimic you. Also, when you talk, they listen. It’s a good feeling to have. It’s a role I want to take. It’s guys that are unselfish in the room, so they make my job easy.”
Richardson, a sophomore who attended Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City, ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries last season. He ran 23 times for 169 yards and three touchdowns against Baylor last season, the second-highest yardage total ever for an Oklahoma State freshman.
Warren is a transfer from Utah State. In three games as the lead back for the aggies, he rushed for 252 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for 136 yards against Fresno State, including an 86-yard touchdown run. As a junior in 2019, he opened his Utah State career by rushing for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games.
The backs say the competition is healthy for the team.
“We’ve really come together as a group and really just help each other, push each other,” Jackson said. “I’m really excited to see what we do in the backfield this season.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP