Make-or-break position battle: Oklahoma State RBs

This week we're highlighting the make-or-break position battles for every program in the Big 12. We continue the series with Oklahoma State’s running back battle.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: Junior Chris Carson, junior Rennie Childs, junior Todd Mays, junior Raymond Taylor, freshman Jeff Carr.

What happened last season: The Cowboys struggled to run the ball for much of the year, averaging 3.51 yards per carry, a far cry from the days when future NFL running backs Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle made names for themselves on the Boone Pickens Stadium turf.

Departed running back Desmond Roland was the leading rusher with 203 carries for 770 yards and 10 touchdowns. Childs is the leading returning rusher after 294 yards on 78 carries in 2014. Taylor, a transfer from Kansas State, had 18 carries for 70 yards.

Carson, Mays and Carr are newcomers to the program.

What they offer: Carson was a key late get for OSU in the Class of 2015. The junior college transfer is already impressing in preseason camp and should have a key role in the offense.

“Chris is pretty much what we expected in regards to being a mature athlete who is big, strong and does really nice things,” running backs coach Marcus Arroyo said. “I'm excited about the way he has taken on the role with the ones.”

But Childs isn’t giving up the starting job without a fight. He has followed up a solid spring with a strong start in the preseason. The junior appears to be solidifying a role for himself despite Carson’s arrival.

“He has obviously built off the spring,” Arroyo said. “He's a 'Steady Eddie.' He's done a really nice job, and I'm excited to see him continue on.”

Carr has been one of the surprises of camp. Not a lot was expected of the under-the-radar freshman but he has put his head down and worked hard to impress. He could play a role as a returner as well as spot duty on offense.

“He's another guy who is really explosive and displays that he's got some talent that we can put out there, probably pretty early on,” Arroyo said. “He's gotten better every day.”

Mays and Taylor should provide depth at the position.

Prediction: OSU’s running back production will be much improved in 2015. Carson will take over the primary role with Childs getting plenty of carries alongside him to provide a solid 1-2 punch. Carr becomes a big-play threat who supplements the older running backs on the roster. After the Cowboys entered the spring with running back as a major question mark, this group should provide much-needed balance to the offense.