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OSU football: An improved offense should create a lighter workload for running back Chuba Hubbard
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OSU football: An improved offense should create a lighter workload for running back Chuba Hubbard

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OSU running back Chuba Hubbard

Improved play by quarterback Spencer Sanders and Oklahoma State’s defense should ease the load on running back Chuba Hubbard (above), who led the nation last year with 2,094 yards rushing. Amanda Loman/AP file

Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard was the heart and soul of OSU’s offense last season.

He led the nation with 2,094 yards rushing, and only two running backs had more than his 21 rushing touchdowns last year. The unanimous All-American finished in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy votes and joined Hall of Famer Barry Sanders as the only players in OSU history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.

Hubbard, who led FBS with 328 carries, is capable of shouldering a similar workload this season, but the Cowboys may not need him to. Oklahoma State played its last five games last year without its top receiver, Tylan Wallace. Quarterback Spencer Sanders was a first-year starter as a redshirt freshman who had high-level play-making ability but struggled with turnovers.

Wallace is returning from his season-ending knee injury, and Sanders is expected to improve his ball security. Not to mention, receivers Dillon Stoner and Braydon Johnson stepped up in Wallace’s absence, which gives Sanders even more options in the passing game.

“Anytime a guy gets a year of experience he should improve, and I think that will happen with Spencer,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “We have a number of guys who can make plays. We’re fortunate that we have quite a few wideouts and we’ve got running backs.”

Sanders passed for 2,065 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 628 yards and two TDs to earn the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year award. He had a solid campaign last year, but the reliance on Hubbard started to take a toll toward the end of the season. Hubbard had at least 32 carries in four games, with a season-high 37 in a 36-30 loss at Texas.

“Chuba was fatigued and beat up a little bit towards the end of the season last year,” Gundy said. “So we’re bringing him along slowly this year and trying to get him in tip-top shape to start the season, and doing the same thing with Tylan.”

Hubbard showed signs of fatigue in the last few games, but still ran well enough to put together 11 consecutive 100-yard games. He capped the year with a 158-yard performance in the Texas Bowl against Texas A&M.

The Big 12 already has lightened Hubbard’s workload by shrinking the schedule to a 10-game season. OSU’s passing game should improve and the defense is expected to continue its upward trend, which will take even more pressure off Hubbard and the offense.

Fewer carries for Hubbard should keep him fresh toward the end of the year so the Cowboys can ride him when they need him most as they try to contend for a Big 12 title.

‘Our Time: Oklahoma State football’ series debuts on ESPN+

OSU running back Chuba Hubbard’s career so far

Frank Bonner II

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frank.bonner@tulsaworld.com

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Sports Writer

I joined the Tulsa World as the Oklahoma State University sports writer in June 2019. I'm an Indiana native who attended graduate school at IUPUI after receiving my bachelor’s degree at Indiana University. Phone: 918-581-8387

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