STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Running back Justice Hill isn’t as well known to Oklahoma State fans as teammates Mason Rudolph and James Washington. He might be after this season.
The Cowboys took off last year when Hill emerged as the clear go-to back. He led all FBS freshmen with 1,142 yards rushing and was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
And while Rudolph, a quarterback, is being mentioned as a potential Heisman Trophy winner and Washington is a favorite for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver, Hill also might be in line for some awards. The coaches named him first-team All-Big 12 in the preseason, and he is on the Doak Walker Award watch list for the nation’s top running back.
Hill puts no limits on what he might accomplish this season.
“I just set goals high,” he said. “You can never sell yourself short. I like to go out there and set goals high for myself.”
Hill, who has earned a reputation for his speed, also has garnered respect in the weight room. Washington raved about how Hill once squatted 565 pounds while listed at 185 pounds.
“He does more of his leadership by leading by example,” Washington said. “During workouts, he’s always giving 110 percent. He’s showing younger guys, `Look, I can do this, so you can too if you just work hard.'”
Hill didn’t take over as the clear lead running back until Oklahoma State’s fourth game last season. He was a reserve in the first three games and had only seven carries in the opener against Southeastern Louisiana, five attempts against Central Michigan and 12 against Pittsburgh.
He broke out in his first start in Week 4, when he ran for 122 yards on 20 carries against Baylor . He ran for 135 yards against Texas the next week and posted 162 yards against Kansas, 126 yards against Texas Tech and 154 yards against TCU. He rumbled for 100 yards in the Alamo Bowl win over Colorado.
But Hill wasn’t satisfied. He felt his blocking was unacceptable, so he focused on it in the offseason.
“It’s really just knowing your assignment and owning it, going full speed,” he said. “Last year I was thinking a lot, and now it just comes natural, and I’m able to get where I need to be.”
Hill will run behind an experienced offensive line led by tackle Zach Crabtree and center Brad Lundblade. Crabtree, a senior with 34 career starts, was a preseason first-team All-Big 12 choice. Lundblade has started every game the past two seasons. Guards Marcus Keyes and Larry Williams have starting experience, and Cal transfer Aaron Cochran, a tackle, has 16 career starts.
Hill said No. 10 Oklahoma State, which ranked 14th nationally in total yardage and 17th in scoring offense last season, could be even better this year.
“The sky is the limit,” he said. “We’re going to go out there and play hard every week, and it should be a great season.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .