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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Joseph Randle ready to be focus of Oklahoma State offense

By Kellis Robinett
The Wichita Eagle

Joseph Randle sounds nothing like a running back who found the end zone 26 times last season.

Ask him to describe his thoughts as the goal line approaches ... and there is no calmness or serenity.

Instead, adrenaline and desperation take over.

Randle acts as if he will never get another chance for a touchdown, and is willing to do whatever it takes to score.

“I want it. I want to score when I get close,” Randle said. “You never know if you are going to get another opportunity. You might fumble the ball on the next play, you might have a snap fumble, anything … If you get close to the end zone you need to try and score.”

Perhaps that is why Randle, a Wichita Southeast product, has become a touchdown machine at Oklahoma State. Not only did he rank fourth nationally in scoring last season with 24 of them coming on the ground and two more coming through the air, he found a way to put up those whopping numbers in the same offense as quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon, two first-round NFL draft picks.

Not a bad way to head into his junior season.

“Joseph has kind of established himself as a dominant back in this league,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.

Weeden and Blackmon are gone now, of course, and that means Randle becomes the focus of the offense.

He is fine with that, though. This is what he envisioned long before he rushed for 1,216 yards, caught 43 passes for 266 yards and became one of the top all-purpose running backs in college football. It’s one of the main reasons he knew Oklahoma State was the place for him, picking the Cowboys before his senior year at Southeast.

“Once I picked them I stopped contacting everybody,” Randle said. “I was like, ‘I’m married now.’ I stopped taking phone calls and everything. This is where I want to be.”

Some opposing fans, especially during a road game at Kansas State his freshman season, tried to tell him he would have been better off elsewhere. But he remained undeterred.

“Their fans always give me a hard time,” Randle said. “’You should have stayed in Kansas, Randle!’ A fan literally came this close to me when I was walking out on there and said that. I was like, ‘You don’t have no clue. We just beat y’all and you’re talking about how I should have stayed in Kansas.’”

Now that he is entering his junior season, that sentiment is even stronger.

“I’m an Oklahoma State Cowboy,” Randle said. “We’re Big 12 champs. We’re going to try and to do it again.”

If the Cowboys are able to repeat what they accomplished last season — 12 victories and a win over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl — Randle will be a big reason why. Unlike past years when he played in the shadow of Weeden and Blackmon, he must now handle the heavy lifting.

It’s the way Gundy wants it.

“Joseph has done very well for us,” he said. “And he’s been durable. Not only a good runner inside but outside. He’s been a good receiver. He pass blocks well … He should handle it well. He’s been involved with Oklahoma State football now for three years… so we have a certain way that we like to carry ourselves, and we talk about team being first and the success of our group. I’m confident that Joe will handle it the right way.”

Randle is certainly prepared for whatever the season brings. Ask him about durability or how many carries he is comfortable taking in a game, and he grins.

“I feel like my workload is less now than it was in high school,” Randle said. “I never came off the field. I was on every special team play, offense and defense. Now I’m just working on running back. This is easy for me now.”

And he wants his approach to be what sets him apart.

“Every year you play football you learn more and more,” Randle said. “I feel like I’m a smarter player than I have ever been. That’s the biggest difference between guys in college and guys in the NFL. They just get smarter. The more you understand the game the better football player you are going to be.”

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com

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