STILLWATER, Okla. – In the middle of last season, Desmond Roland took over as Oklahoma State’s featured running back. Previously, the Cowboys had sputtered offensively. But with Roland manning the backfield, Oklahoma State scored 58, 52, 42, 38 and 49 points during a dominating five-game winning streak. Despite starting only half the season, Roland wound up topping all Big 12 running backs with 13 rushing touchdowns, too.
Roland sat out the spring recovering from a routine offseason shoulder scope. But the rising senior gave ESPN.com his observations about an offense that will feature some different faces, new backfield speedster Tyreek Hill and the leadership of quarterback J.W. Walsh:
Even though you haven’t been on the field this spring, how would you characterize the offense right now watching it from the sidelines?
Roland: Way more talent than we’ve had. The freshmen we had last year [receivers Jhajuan Seales, Marcell Ateman, Ra’Shaad Samples and running backs Rennie Childs and Corion Webster] have a lot of talent, a lot of speed. I really compare it to 2011, my freshman season. We’re a little slow [grasping the schemes] on defense, but they’re going to pick it up. And there’s a lot of talent and speed on offense.
You say the talent is better, but you guys are replacing three of the offense’s leading receivers from last year in Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore. You really believe the overall talent is better?
Roland: We lost some great players, but I think the talent and skill level is up to a new standard. Some of our players are hurt, but when we get everyone back for two-a-days it’s going to look good.
What are your thoughts on Tyreek Hill?
Roland: Oh, he’s very skilled. When they say speed kills, it definitely shows when he’s on the field. He came in right away and showed what he can do, he works hard in practice, and it’s paying off for him.
Could you guys be a thunder and lightning duo?
Roland: Oh yeah. I see us doing well out there together. He’s going to make some good plays for us, and so is Childs.
You like to grind out yards between the tackles, Hill has the breakaway speed -- do you feel like you two can really complement one another in the backfield?
Roland: It’s definitely going to be a change of pace for the defense. They’re not going to know what to expect when we’re in the game together. Whoever gets the ball can make a big play at any moment, and it’s really going to pay for our offense.
How has Walsh done this spring?
Roland: He’s the most competitive person on our team. It’s really showing a lot this spring. He’s our leader. And he’s improved on his throwing.
Is Walsh the unequivocal leader of the offense?
Roland: Yes sir. He’s the leader. Even though he got his spot taken (by Clint Chelf) last year, he’s still the hardest worker in practice and in the weight room. And it’s going to pay off for him this season.
What about the other quarterbacks, Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph?
Roland: They’re doing a great job as well. They have a lot to learn. J-Dub [Walsh] has been here longer so he has that advantage over them. Them two quarterbacks, though, are doing good as well. If J-Dub ends up going down with some kind of injury, I feel like those two can step in and do a good job.
So Walsh has been the most impressive quarterback this spring?
Roland: Oh yeah, by far. He’s been the most consistent. He’s the first one in the weight room, the last one to leave. First one to watch film, first one out before practice, last one to leave. So, I believe he’s going to be one.
So Walsh is going to win this quarterback battle?
Roland: It’s always going to be a battle, because all our players compete, but in my mind, J-Dub is going to win it.