The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

June 23, 2008

Luper: OSU will rely on running game

Oklahoma State has produced many standout ball carriers, enough so that many regard OSU as Running Back University.

Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas headline a list that also includes running backs such as Terry Miller, Bob Fenimore, Ernest Anderson, David Thompson, Gerald Hudson, Vernand Morency, Tatum Bell and Dontrell Savage.

“That’s what we do at Oklahoma State. We run the ball,’’ said OSU running backs coach Curtis Luper, who spoke at the Enid Rotary Club luncheon Monday. “We want to win games because of us.’’

The next batch of running backs in line for the Cowboys are Kendall Hunter, Beau Johnson and Keith Toston, who Luper ranks 1A, 1B and 1C in the rotation.

Last year, Hunter ran for 696 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson is a junior college transfer from Butler (Kan.) Community College, which won the NJCAA championship last year. Toston is coming off ACL knee surgery and is expected to be at full strength within a month.

“Kendall can really play,’’ said Luper. “Beau is a tough, smart football player. He has a lot of intangibles. Keith has to go through some hard hits and then he’ll be confident about his knee.’’

The Cowboys will have to replace Savage, who now is playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. Last season, Savage was second in the Big 12 with 115 yards rushing per game.

“With Dontrell, it was more than the numbers he put up,’’ said Luper. “It was the energy he brought to the game. He was always up and bouncing around. He had a high level of energy and passion. That’s contagious and infectious with a football team.’’

Luper said a consistent running game from the backs will help complete an OSU offense that features multi-threat quarterback Zac Robinson.

With Savage and Robinson providing most of the numbers last season, the Cowboys ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 with 243 yards rushing per game.

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