OSU football: What will it take for Chuba Hubbard to contend for the Heisman Trophy?
STILLWATER — Just as Chuba Hubbard began his Zoom call with the media last Tuesday, the Oklahoma State running back was informed he had been named a preseason All-American by ESPN.
Hubbard cracked a half-smile.
“That’s cool, I guess,” he said.
Maybe Hubbard cares deeply on the inside about personal accomplishments. If so, he’s a master illusionist when it comes to hiding those feelings.
Hubbard enters the season as Oklahoma State’s best Heisman Trophy contender since receiver Justin Blackmon finished fifth in 2010.
“It’s a big year for our team,” Hubbard said when asked about the individual accomplishments that could be awaiting him in 2020. “I wouldn’t say it’s just a big year for me. I didn’t come back to break records for myself. I came back to win a Big 12 championship and a national championship with my team. That’s my main goal.”
Of course, to accomplish those goals, it’ll likely take a Heisman-type season from someone at Oklahoma State, and Hubbard is the prime candidate after his 2,094-yard season a year ago.
Yet even that didn’t get him close to a finalist spot in New York. Those spots went to quarterbacks of playoff teams. A running back hasn’t finished in the top four of the Heisman voting since Bryce Love was the runner-up in 2017.
In a shortened season, magic numbers like 2,000 rushing yards will be harder to accomplish, so a Heisman campaign will be built around victories, big games and highlight-reel plays.
Hubbard filled the list with the latter two a year ago, but the Cowboys didn’t win enough for him to be take seriously as a Heisman candidate. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins — both of whom Hubbard outperformed in nearly every significant statistical category — finished higher than Hubbard in the Heisman voting with the boost from overall team success.
OSU coach Mike Gundy believed Hubbard wore down late in the season, so Hubbard’s usage will be a regular topic of discussion.
“He’s gonna get his carries,” Gundy said. “We’ll base it on how he feels throughout the game. I would hope that he wouldn’t have to carry it 30 times a game, but if he does for us to be successful on offense, and he feels good, then we’ll continue to give it to him.”
And Hubbard is looking to add to his weaponry this season. He’s been effective when he’s had opportunities as a receiver out of the backfield, but he wants to be better. He regularly spends extra time working with offensive coordinator and receivers coach Kasey Dunn on his pass-catching abilities.
“Since I got here, I’ve worked on my hands with Coach Dunn — every year since I got here. Every practice, pretty much,” Hubbard said. “I’ve worked on my routes.
“In regards to me improving my game, I’m trying to improve running between the tackles, getting around the edge, open-field cuts.”
While the world was in awe of Hubbard’s 2019 season, he was picking it apart.
“A lot of good things happened,” he said. “But I had a great offensive line, I had a great team around me to help me with those things. I just realized that I needed to work on a lot of things, and I did. So I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”