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Four is better than one: OSU running back battle is unique

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Ellman Photography - Dezmon_Jackson_TCU-OSU_120520.jpg

TCU vs OSU at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas onDecember 5, 2020. (Photo by Gregg Ellman

Dezmon Jackson fought off the fatigue to get set one last time. It was fourth and one with 1:33 left in the game, OSU holding onto a 50-44 lead against Texas Tech. Jackson had already amassed 200+ yards and three touchdowns, but there was still one more thing to do:

Get the first down.

Jackson took the handoff from Spencer Sanders, exploded through the line of scrimmage, and picked up the first down and then some. He could’ve walked to the end zone, but instead Jackson took a knee to secure the win.

That was Jackson’s first career start, and he carried the ball 36 times.

“That's too many times,” coach Mike Gundy said.

Fortunately for Gundy, running back depth shouldn’t be a problem in the 2021 season.

The Cowboys have a loaded running back room, headlined by LD Brown, Jackson, Dominic Richardson and newly-added Utah State transfer Jaylen Warren. With seven of 12 spring practices in the books, one thing has become evident, that room position won’t be an issue.

“That's in my opinion the most impressive running back room in the country,” offensive lineman Josh Sills said. “Each one has their own shake and sugar that they put on everything.”

The depth at running back is a big bonus for OSU, but it unfortunately does present a problem.

How are they all going to see the field?

The typical answer would be that it isn’t possible. But in this case it just might be. Each of the four backs brings his own special skill set to the table, so the packages and formations are endless. There’s another thing to keep in mind.

The running back position is a brutal one, and depth could protect their bodies.

“That is the most violent position to play at our level in my opinion, so those guys get beat up,” Gundy said. “So this gives a little depth and it should allow them to stay healthier longer throughout the season.”

Jackson showed glimpses of being a true starter at the end of last season, and Richardson had a 150-yard rushing performance against Baylor. But with Brown returning for one more year as the most experienced back, by far, and the transfer Warren thrown into the mix, what does the depth chart look like?

At this point it’s up in the air.

One would assume that Brown and Jackson are the main backs, while Richardson and Warren see the field in various situations, but that could change.

All four guys have shown out so far this spring.

“I’m glad I’m not one of them, cause we’ve got a lot of ‘em, a lot of good guys back there,” cowboy back Logan Carter said.

As spring practice continues on and eventually turns into fall practice in just a few months, OSU’s running back battle is one to keep an eye on.

Having so many capable backs has its advantages and disadvantages, but there’s no doubt that when the season kicks off on Sept. 4 against Missouri State, OSU’s running backs will be one of the better position groups on the field.

“It's special,” Sills said. “Especially when you have four.”