Run it up

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - Scott Wright swright@ ok­la­homan.com

Ok­la­homa State run­ning back Jus­tice Hill leads the way for the Cow­boys rush­ing at­tack in 2017, but he’ll have four backs be­hind him vy­ing for car­ri­ers as his backup.

The depth chart re­leased by Ok­la­homa State on Fri­day tells you one spe­cific de­tail about its run­ning backs that you prob­a­bly al­ready knew.

Jus­tice Hill, com­ing off the school’s first 1,000-yard rush­ing sea­son by a fresh­man, is the starter.

After that, it’s all up for in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

The four fresh­men re­serves — J.D. King, Ja’Ron Wilson, LD Bell and Chuba Hub­bard — are all listed as potential back­ups, and coach Mike Gundy hasn’t said ex­actly how he plans to use them come game day on Thurs­day against Tulsa.

“Jus­tice Hill will get a ma­jor­ity of the work and if we feel like he needs a break, we’ll run another guy in,” Gundy said. “There could be times where we start a se­ries with a younger guy, but my guess is it will be just when we think he needs a break.”

Gundy said Hub­bard, a true fresh­man from Al­berta, Canada, isn’t likely to red­shirt, de­spite the depth at the po­si­tion. Hub­bard has spent the last week work­ing among back­ups, rather than with the scout team.

“The guys who are up there full-time, there’s a chance they could be in the game,” Gundy said.

“We have kept guys up there be­fore, and prac­ticed them all year, and held them back. So I don’t know what they’re gonna do with him right now.

“He gets bet­ter and bet­ter every day. And we like where he’s at. He’s got a long ways to go, but when he breaks through and gets in the open, it’s over. Gone. That’s what I like about it.”

Tulsa’s QB bat­tle no hin­drance on OSU’s prepa­ra­tion

Chad Pres­i­dent and Luke Skip­per con­tinue to fight for the start­ing quar­ter­back job at Tulsa, and with the game a few days away, that could seem like a prob­lem for Ok­la­homa State.

But be­cause nei­ther quar­ter­back has played sig­nif­i­cant min­utes — and Skip­per not at all — the Cow­boys won’t know what to expect from ei­ther of them, even if one was named the starter.

“The guys they’re go­ing to use, there isn’t much video of that,” Gundy said. “You would pre­fer to have that, but in Tulsa’s case, it doesn’t af­fect much.”

So OSU can only study schemes and ten­den­cies of coach Philip Mont­gomery, rather than wor­ry­ing about the spe­cific at­tributes of the quar­ter­backs.

Gundy also warned against ex­pect­ing a big dropoff from Tulsa be­cause of the tal­ented play­ers from last year’s team that grad­u­ated.

“With (Mont­gomery) call­ing plays and run­ning of­fenses at other schools where he was at, there would be a group of guys leave and peo­ple thought, ‘OK. Now they’ll set­tle down,’” Gundy said. “But that wasn’t the case, and they went out and got 5,000 yards with some new guys.”

Numbers game

One no­table jer­sey num­ber change that Ok­la­homa State fans will no­tice right away this sea­son is that of Hill at run­ning back.

While his break­out sea­son came in a No. 27 jer­sey last year, Hill is now wear­ing No. 5.

The No. 27 jer­sey was sim­ply as­signed to him when he ar­rived as a true fresh­man last year.

“I was like, ‘I’m not gonna change my num­ber. I’m a fresh­man. I don’t even know if I’m gonna play or not,’” he said. “I just de­cided to change it this year.”

Hill wore No. 21 in high school at Tulsa Wash­ing­ton, and that would’ve been his first choice. But that num­ber isn’t avail­able at OSU, hav­ing been re­tired in honor of Barry San­ders.

[PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Ok­la­homa State sopho­more Jus­tice Hill, who wore No. 27 last year but will wear No. 5 this sea­son, re­turns as the Cow­boys’ start­ing run­ning back. The depth chart be­hind him, how­ever, in­cludes sev­eral promis­ing back­ups.

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