Sometimes, life comes at you fast.
Oklahoma State’s running back corps is learning that firsthand.
In the past month, Oklahoma State has lost two of its top three tailbacks – to injury or transfer – which has made for a scramble in the pecking order.
Redshirt freshman Chuba Hubbard has taken the load since Justice Hill went down to injury in the second quarter of the Bedlam game, and with J.D. King electing to transfer, LD Brown has found himself bumped up from No. 4 to the backup tailback for the Cowboys.
“You take a guy that’s a really, really good player, and he’s not on your team, it changes some things for us,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said of Hill’s departure. “One, you don’t have as much depth. But he’s a very exciting player, and can change a game at any time. So we’re not as good a team without him as we would be with him.”
Hill’s decision to skip the bowl and forego his final year for the NFL didn’t come as a surprise to some.
Gundy stated before the season that he felt this would be Hill’s final year in Stillwater, and on Tuesday, Hubbard mentioned he and Hill had talked prior to an official announcement was made of Hill’s intentions.
“We had talked about it, so I knew beforehand,” Hubbard said. “He’s got to do what’s best of him, and he deserves it. He’s worked hard for it, making his dreams come true. So I’m happy for him.”
In a perfect world, Hill would have gotten the chance to shine in his final Bedlam game and gotten a proper send off in Boone Pickens Stadium – OSU’s upset of top 10 West Virginia. But despite Oklahoma State’s attempts to keep him fresh throughout the season by limiting his touches – he had more than 20 carries in a game just three times this season – he suffered the injury against Oklahoma that sidelined him for the final two games.
“With Justice, we protected him as much as we could early in the season,” Gundy said. “And he got hurt in the latter part of the season, and I would guess that he wants to make sure he stays healthy so he can test, and run, and do all the different things for the draft.”
With the backfield suddenly looking depleted, the Cowboy coaching staff will be able to take advantage of the new redshirt rule which permits players to compete in four games and still retain a year of eligibility.
The benefactor to that new rule will be true freshman running back Jayhmyl Jeter, a 6-foot, 210-pound three-start prospect from San Antonio.
And just like for the backs ahead of him, life is coming at him fast.
“Jeter’s out there getting a little work, he went the wrong way most of the time today,” Gundy said Tuesday. “But we put him out there with the 3s and let him run, and they tackled him a bunch. He realized that he wasn’t redshirting any more.”
Fortunately for Jeter, he still has two tailbacks ahead of him with some experience in the Cowboy system.
According to Brown, he and Hubbard have taken a leadership role while Jeter gets a crash course on the offense with 16 practices before the Liberty Bowl against Missouri.
“He’s got a lot of learning to do, but we’ll get him straight,” said Brown, a Dallas native. “We help him, we take him off to the side after every rep and tell him what he can do better. We’re just going to be those mentors for him, so when he does get that opportunity, he does know what to do.”
Brown, more than anybody, understands the role Jeter will play now in the running back room.
Having dealt with an injury earlier in the season that sidelined him for three games, Brown was relegated to the fourth tailback in the depth chart. After he returned healthy, he never saw the field four the next four games.
However, when Hill was injured and King informed the coaching staff he was leaving, Brown jumped into the backup role and had one carry against OU and four carries for 26 yards against West Virginia. In the regular season finale at TCU, he matched a career high with 10 rushing attempts – tying the 10 he had against South Alabama last year.
“I just waited for my opportunity, waited for my chance, and now look, you see the situation I’m in,” Brown said. “Being patient really helps.”
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Oklahoma State athletics.