Brown's return gives OSU experience, HR threat

Oklahoma State running back LD Brown (0) gains yardage against Miami during the second half of the Cheez-it Bowl NCAA college football game, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

LD Brown turned in some of the most explosive run plays for Oklahoma State in 2020 while serving as the backup to an injured Chuba Hubbard.

In his nine games of action last season – missing the final three regular season games due to his own injuries – Brown averaged 5.3 yards per carry, which was ahead of Hubbard’s average of 4.7. He was also one of only two Cowboy running backs – along with third-stringer tailback Dominic Richardson – to have at least one run over 50 yards, with Brown having two rushes at least half a football field in length (66 yards against West Virginia and a 50-yarder against Kansas State).

So when he elected to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to all athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the backfield instantly got a boost in the post-Hubbard era.

“It was huge,” offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said of Brown’s return. “I love LD. He’s a great kid, smiling all the time. He’s fast now – the joker can go. We need to get him the football in the position to take it to the house.

“There’s going to be very few people on the field that can catch him. We need those plays from him again this season.”

The explosiveness in the running game is something Dunn is looking to achieve gains in during his second year as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator.

In his first season calling the plays for the Pokes, OSU was in the bottom half of the Big 12 Conference in average per run at 3.9 per attempt – just ahead of West Virginia, Kansas and Baylor.

“We hit a bunch of explosive runs in 2019, and we’ve got to get that explosiveness back in the run game, specifically,” Dunn said. “That’s been kind of the focus right now, for me. … We just didn’t hit enough chunk plays in the run game last year to really kind of set us apart in some games.”

Brown can certainly bring the explosiveness.

According to Cowboy football coach Mike Gundy, the returning tailback has put up some fast numbers coming off his injury late in the season.

“LD, we tested last week, and he ran 4.37 or 4.39, so he’s rolling pretty good,” Gundy said. “He’s been here a long time. You can’t ever replace experience, in my opinion. So it’s good to have him back.”

But using Brown in the ground game isn’t the only way Dunn hopes to utilize the veteran tailback.

In Hubbard’s final two seasons, Dunn – who is the longtime receivers coach for the Cowboys – worked with the future NFL tailback on his catching skills. And with that, there was an increase of using Hubbard in the passing game to add another wrinkle to the offense.

It’s a scheme Dunn wants to carry forward with the DeSoto, Texas, native.

“I’d love to get him in space, on the perimeter, because we feel that if LD is one-on-one in space with a linebacker, that’s advantage Cowboys,” Dunn said. “I’d like to get him out there doing that, but right now, we’re just focused holding up in that pocket in protecting. Hopefully we can expand that role.”

Dunn also saw what can happen to his lead tailback if there is not a way to split carries.

Hubbard was relied upon so heavily during the 2019 season that he showed signs of wear and tear late into the season.

The Cowboy coaching staff is hopeful the talent behind Brown – led by junior college product Dezmon Jackson, who exploded in the three regular season games Brown and Hubbard were absent, coupled with Richardson and Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren – can help supplement the body blows out of the backfield this upcoming season.

“Fortunately, we have a number of guys that can take some of the load away from him,” Gundy said. “Because, as you know, those guys get beat up at all levels – high school, this level, NFL. That position takes a beating. So hopefully, we can keep those guys healthy, and not have to take as many hits.”

Per Dunn, it may be a combination of Brown and Jackson spearheading the run game, saying the two tailbacks bring varying ability – with Jackson being a hard-noised runner, who attacks downhill, where as Brown is the speedster.

“It’s kind of a fun mix,” Dunn said. “It’s just a matter of tying it up for those guys on touches.”

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