The Oklahoma State Cowboys may have lost the game against Nebraska on Saturday, but their senior running back certainly answered some questions about his ability to play well against a physical and aggressive defense. In doing so, he earned my Prospect of the Week.
Kendall Hunter ran for 201 yards on 26 attempts against a proud Cornhusker defense, shredding them for a 7.7 yard average gain and scoring two touchdowns.
Scouts have often argued that grading running backs out of the spread offense is difficult and has led to some of Hunter's success. Some have even claimed that Oklahoma State's backups could post similar numbers if given the opportunity. That certainly was not the case against the Cornhuskers. OSU backups had eight rushing attempts against the Cornhuskers and produced a total of 26 yards (3.25 average) and a score (from two yards out).
Though shorter than scouts would prefer at 5-08, Hunter sports a well-proportioned 200 pounds. He is every bit as quick and elusive as one might anticipate a back of this size being, but the qualities that make him such an intriguing NFL prospect are his vision, explosive burst and surprising strength.
On many of Hunter's best runs against the Cornhuskers, he'd burst through the initial hole, read the hard-charging linebackers and defensive backs and cut against the grain. The explosiveness he showed in the second cut helped him break into the open field on many occasions. The power and determination with which he ran surprised the Cornhuskers on many occasions.
Perhaps his most impressive run came in the second quarter for an eight-yard touchdown.
Hunter, lined to the right of Cowboy quarterback Brandon Weeden (who was in shotgun) took the handoff and jetted to the left, showing very good speed to beat the linebackers to the edge.
Nebraska's secondary read the play, however, and flowed left to contain him. Showing the vision and cutback ability that makes him such a productive runner, Hunter recognized the cutback opportunity inside and broke through the middle when he was met at the 3-yard line by 6-2, 210 pound free safety P.J. Smith. Rather than dance around him, Hunter drove through Smith, bulldozing him into the endzone.
There is no denying that Oklahoma State's spread attack forces the defense wide, opening up some rushing lanes for Hunter. One could also make the argument, however, that the Cowboys' focus on the passing game has limited Hunter's opportunities. Either way, his production in this game (201 rushing yards), this season (3rd in nation with 1,031 rushing yards) and over his career (3,664) speak for themselves.
By the way, Hunter's 146 rushing yards in the first half against Nebraska put him moved him up to 4th on OSU's record for most career rushing yards.
Who did he pass? Some guy named Barry Sanders.