As reported by Gina Mizell of the Daily Oklahoman, Oklahoma State star running back Joseph Randle has decided to forgo his senior season and declare himself eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Obviously, this is a huge blow for the Cowboys, as Randle is coming off a season that saw him lead the Big 12 in rushing and gain recognition as a first team All-Big 12 selection.
That said, it's not as if this decision comes as a huge surprise.
Sure, most Oklahoma State fans hoped Randle would come back for one more year and feature in what could be the nation's most prolific offensive attack (depending on growth at the QB position). However, he's also been one of the most productive players in college football the last two years, and, given OSU's pass-happy attack, his stock could be pretty close to its highest.
It's not going to be easy for the Cowboys to replace such a talented player, but they've got a few pieces in place to make the change easier. The Pokes will likely replace Randle with some combination of junior Jeremy Smith and sophomore Desmond Roland.
Smith is the more likely "sure thing" because he's consistently produced for Oklahoma State over the last three seasons. He's more of a downhill runner than Randle but shows decent speed, excellent vision and some good power in many of his runs. In fact, Smith might have what it takes to be the next in a long line of stud Oklahoma State running backs.
Over the last two years, he has 1,017 yards and 17 touchdowns on limited carries. Granted, we'll have to see if he can stay healthy over a full year, but if he can continue to match that pace with more carries, the Cowboys won't lose much without Randle.
When you start to look at Smith's backups, that's where things get interesting.
Desmond Roland had a few big games in 2012, but all of them came against inferior competition. Obviously, you can't hold that against him because he was a third-string running back; it's not like he's going to see the lion's share of the carries. In his limited snaps, Roland has shown us his ability to shed tackles and some good burst out of the backfield.
One positive in Roland's corner is that he came out of high school as a wide receiver/running back combo, which should help him get more snaps in the Cowboys' offense. The big knock on Roland is that he hasn't seen much action against quality opponents, so we don't really know what he's capable of. That said, he looks to have a bright future with Oklahoma State.
The big X-factor in all of this is that Randle's departure opens up the door for a 5-star running back to come to Oklahoma State and immediately get playing time.
Now, guys like Altee Tenpenny looked to be mostly locked into their commitments, but Oklahoma State has already stolen a few commits from rival schools, and Randle's decision gives them a chance to do the same with a high-caliber running back.
It would be great if head coach Mike Gundy could pilfer another big-time recruit from the SEC; however, for now we just have to work with the guys already on the team.
Cowboys fans are surely missing Joseph Randle now, but by the time the 2013 season begins, guys like Jeremy Smith and Desmond Roland will make them forget any concerns they have right now.
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