By Nick Snow
STILLWATER – Jeremy Smith has always been known as the thunder in Oklahoma State University’s thunder-and-lightning tandem at running back. If the Cowboys were inside the 10-yard line last season, chances were that Smith was going to get the ball.
Down to 198 pounds, the junior bruiser hopes to play a little bit bigger role for the Pokes in the upcoming season thanks to a few new moves learned from a former Cowboy.
“During the summertime that’s all I’ve been working on,” Smith said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do, get that lateral movement back. I believe I’ve changed quite a bit, especially with the cuts I’ve been making.”
Smith said he spent time over the summer watching tapes of Kendall Hunter trying to figure out how to add a little more wiggle into his game instead of being a one-trick pony in Oklahoma State’s stable of running backs.
“I’ve been pretty much doing the same thing (as Hunter),” Smith said. “I’ve run hard each day in practice and I’m just trying to get better. Pretty much the faster you run, the easier the game comes to you – it slows things down a lot.”
But not everybody is impressed with Smith’s new moves.
“(He’s making) too many moves,” Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. “He just needs to run and go downhill. He’s a downhill, one cut guy. He just needs to go.
“Now do I think he wants to develop as an open-field guy? Of course. That’s what all running backs want to do.”
Monken may not be overly impressed with Smith’s new moves, but those same moves have caught the attention of coach Mike Gundy. And Gundy says a more versatile Smith makes the Cowboys even more dangerous on offense.
“I think Jeremy has given us 1 and 1A at the running back position,” Gundy said. “Joseph Randle has had a lot of attention and deservedly so. I’ve been pleased with both players and their work ethic up to this point. We’re comfortable with either player in there, and he brings a lot to the table not only as a runner, but a protector and a receiver.”
And with both Smith and Randle splitting time, being able to catch passes from freshman quarterback Wes Lunt will play a huge role in whether or not Smith stays on the field.
“He’s gotten a lot better (at catching passes),” Monken said. “He really has worked at it. We’ll see if it translates over. The tough thing is that he’s not in those situations a lot because we use Joe. I think he’s really worked at it and he’s gotten a lot better at understanding catching the ball in space where a quarterback can find him.”
As Oklahoma State prepares for Savannah State in the season opener Saturday, Smith said he’s happy with the recent weight change – adding that he hopes fans are impressed too.
Smith may not be able to bull through the defensive line like he did last year. The weight may be gone, but Smith says the strength and heart is still there – something the Cowboys will need with the backfield expected to carry the offensive load.
“Each and every year you’ve got to take a bigger role,” Smith said. “I hope to get more carries. I felt like I’m ready for it after going out there in the summertime working. … Whenever they call my name, I just have to take full advantage.
“If they happen to give me a shot, I have to take full advantage of it. Whether it’s running straight ahead or bouncing outside – whatever they ask me to do, I just have to go out there and do it. My goal is to help my team in any way possible, and to do that I just have to listen to my coaches and go out there and do the job they tell me to do.”
– Nick Snow is a sports writer for the Stillwater NewsPress.