OSU football: Why now is the time to enjoy Cowboy star Chuba Hubbard
HOUSTON — Chuba Hubbard does lots of things quickly.
Run. Juke. Spin. Cut.
Just about everything the Oklahoma State running back does on the field is fast.
But when it comes to making a decision about his future — return to the Cowboys or leave for the NFL — the security line at Will Rogers World Airport the day after Christmas was moving faster than he is. He is going slow. Being methodical. Taking his time.
“There’s a million things that factor into that decision,” Hubbard said Thursday on the eve of the Texas Bowl. “I’ve worked my whole like for this next step. Now that it’s here, obviously I’m going to factor in everything.
“I don’t want to rush it.”
While Cowboy fans hope Hubbard puts it off for another year or so, the truth is Friday night could be his last game as a Cowboy. He could have a big night against Texas A&M; he’s well rested for the first time in months. He could become only the 30th major-college football player since 1956 to rush for 2,000 yards in a season; the list of players who've reached that plateau is as notable for who isn't on it (Emmitt Smith, O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell) as who is (Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, Tony Dorsett).
Hubbard could do all that, then be gone.
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Or he could be the way-too-early frontrunner for next year’s Heisman Trophy.
It’s anyone’s guess. I tend to think great running backs like Hubbard go pro as soon as possible because they only have so many carries in their legs — and Hubbard used up a bunch this season — but maximizing his earning potential isn’t his only consideration.
And Cowboy Nation, I hope such things aren’t your only consideration Friday night.
Take time to appreciate this guy.
Rewind to this time last year, and there was no guarantee Hubbard would be where he is today. Even though he got a bigger share of the carries late in the season after Justice Hill was injured, Tylan Wallace was slated to be this season's star. Superman’s sidekick was likely to be the winner of the quarterback battle between Spencer Sanders and Dru Brown.
But from the get go, this season belonged to Hubbard.
Three touchdowns and 221 yards in the opener at Oregon State.
Three touchdowns and 256 yards at Tulsa.
On and on the big numbers went.
Hubbard set such a high bar that when he finished the season with 106 yards at West Virginia and 104 yards in Bedlam, everyone wondered what was wrong with Chuba. Had he worn down? Had defenses figured him out?
Since when are 100-yard games a sign of trouble?
Especially since he was playing without Wallace or Sanders. Both suffered injuries, and their absences put even more on Hubbard’s shoulders. But even as defenses keyed more on him, he still averaged 155.5 yards of total offense in those last two games.
But those close to him in Stillwater acknowledged late in the season Hubbard got fatigued. He didn’t break the tackles he busted through or elude the defenders he made look silly earlier in the year.
He never acknowledged it, much less complained, but Thursday he admitted he has felt different these past few weeks.
“Definitely,” he said. “There was definitely a point where my body was obviously fatigued a little bit. Had some wear and tear.”
“I feel good.”
Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said, “Hopefully, he’s had enough rest ... we can get him back up and running.”
As if Hubbard wasn’t up and running last we saw him. Pffft.
Still, Friday could be the best version of Hubbard we’ve seen in a long time.
That’s another reason to be sure to take time to enjoy what he does in the bowl. Even if he comes back to OSU next year, he will rarely be this fresh. We may see speed and strength paired with timing and blocking like never before.
Oh, what fun!
It will be easy to get sidetracked and start thinking about the future. After the game, Hubbard is planning to head home to Canada. Classes start at OSU on Jan. 8, and underclassmen must declare for the NFL Draft by Jan. 20, so he’ll have time to talk over his decision with his family.
He could easily follow in the footsteps of Chris Carson and Justice Hill, Cowboy running backs of recent years who had smashing success in the NFL. Hubbard could well be the next running back to exchange the orange and black of OSU for the green of the NFL.
Hubbard, like most draft-eligible players these days, requested an evaluation from the league. He told me Thursday he has already received his draft grade and other feedback.
“Yeah,” he said, “I have.”
So, did he want to share any of that information?
“No,” he said with a big grin spreading across his face. “Not getting into that.”
I didn’t even push him on it. There’ll be time to talk about his future. Focusing on the here and now and taking it day by day has been his oft-repeated mantra since talk of the NFL started percolating.
He doesn’t want to rush it.
Neither should we.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.
Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
When: 5:45 p.m., Friday
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston
TV: ESPN (Cox 29)
Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
HARDLY RUN OF THE MILL
Since 1956, only 29 major-college football players have rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season. Oklahoma State's Chuba Hubbard is looking to join the exclusive club. He only needs 64 yards against Texas A&M on Friday in the Texas Bowl.
Here's a look at the players already in the 2,000-yard club:
1. Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State, 1988, 2,628
2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin, 2014, 2,587
3. Kevin Smith, Central Florida, 2007, 2,567
4. Marcus Allen, Southern Cal, 1981, 2,427
5. Rashaad Penny, San Diego State, 2017, 2,248
6. Derrick Henry, Alabama, 2015, 2,219
7. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin, 2018, 2,194
8. Troy Davis, Iowa State, 1996, 2,185
9. Andre Williams, Boston College, 2013, 2,177
10. LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU, 2000, 2,158
11. Tony Dorsett, Pitt, 1976, 2,150
12. Mike Rozier, Nebraska, 1983, 2,148
13. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State, 2016, 2,133
14. Matt Forte, Tulane, 2007, 2,127
15. Ricky Williams, Texas, 1998, 2,124
16. Bryce Love, Stanford, 2017, 2,118
17. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1996, 2,109
18. Larry Johnson, Penn State, 2002, 2,087
19. Donald Brown, UConn, 2008, 2,083
20. Lorenzo White, Michigan State, 1985, 2,066
21. Damien Anderson, Northwestern, 2000, 2,063
22. Rashaan Salaam, Colorado, 1994, 2,055
23. Charles White, Southern Cal, 1979, 2,050
24. Tevin Coleman, Indiana, 2014, 2,036
25. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1999, 2,034
26. D'Onta Foreman, Texas 2016, 2,028
27. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, 2015, 2,019
28. J.J. Arrington, Cal, 2004, 2,018
29. Ray Rice, Rutgers, 2007, 2,012
30. Troy Davis, Iowa State, 1995, 2,010
31. Byron Hanspard, Texas Tech, 1996, 2,000