Randle stacks up with OSU running back greats

Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle (1) leads the Big 12 with 934 yards rushing. Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle (1) leads the Big 12 with 934 yards rushing. Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Photo by Getty Images
| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 7:24 p.m.

Having played with Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders — the two most prolific running backs in school history — Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy knew the question was coming:

How does John Randle stack up?

Thomas is No. 1 in school history with 4,847 rushing yards in 46 games. Sanders is No. 6 with 3,556 yards in 30 games. Both players are in the College and Pro Football halls of fame.

Randle, a junior, leads the Big 12 Conference with 934 rushing yards on 175 carries. In 34 career games, he's rushed 465 times for 2,602 yards and 35 touchdowns.

Gundy said Randle is more like Thomas, who excelled as runner and receiver but lacked Sanders' explosiveness.

“I don't know that it's ever fair to compare a guy to an NFL Hall of Famer,” said Gundy, who played quarterback at Oklahoma State from 1986-89 and is the school's career passing leader. “But at this point in their career, Thurman was effective in the same area that Joseph Randle is.”

Randle — the top running back in a league now renowned for its prolific passing — has provided balance for an offense led by three quarterbacks this season because of injuries.

Oklahoma State hosts West Virginia at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium.

“The comparisons with Thurman are (they are) both are very intelligent and cerebral football players,” Gundy said. “Both are good runners. They're not great speed breakaway speed runners, but they're very effective and the get big runs.''

Randle hails from Wichita, Kan. — Sanders' hometown — and is aware of comparisons his running style evokes with his predecessor.

“That's what I was thinking when I first decided to go there, but it's definitely an honor that people have put me in the same sentence as Barry Sanders,” Randle said earlier this season. “We played Little League football at Barry Sanders Football Field (in Wichita). I mean ... he's one of the all-time greats, arguably one of the best running backs of all time.''

Randle is creating his own legacy at Oklahoma State. He has rushed for nine touchdowns this season while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He's also averaging 116.8 yards and has 200 more rushing yards than anyone in the conference.

“He's one of my favorite kids I've ever coached,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator in 2010.”I had him for one year as a true freshman, and it means a lot to him. He lives it.

“He's quick-twitch, he's powerful, he's very skilled, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, you can throw him screens and you can line him up as a receiver and throw him the ball downfield. Joseph Randle is a fantastic football player.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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