Yesterday I spent too much time researching Chuba Hubbard. His offensive line, Oklahoma State trends in pass-catching backs, and more. The idea was to put a thread on Twitter of strengths, weaknesses, and what went wrong in 2020 versus 2019. After compiling all of the notes and numbers, it became clear that they weren’t going to fit on a Twitter thread.
Just to be clear, I am not arguing where you rank him. Ranking players is personally a struggle for me, so if you put out rookie rankings just know you’re already better than me and I am so proud of you. This is simply to highlight his biggest strength, weakness, and what went wrong in 2020.
The obvious answer here is speed. You all don’t need me to tell you that Hubbard is fast. Like fast. I don’t think Chuba will be that classic “bell-cow back” in the NFL, but he doesn’t need to be either. If you think he lacks vision, you’re telling on yourself. He is liable to burst through a hole and take off for a home run every single time he’s on the field.
Hubbard’s biggest issue is with pass blocking…and I don’t think it’s particularly close. He has a tendency to get thrown around and his recovery isn’t stellar. I’m hopeful this is something he can work on at the next level. That he’ll put on some big boy weight and hone in his skill as it is critical in the eyes of the NFL.
Again you all don’t need me to tell you what things he is good at and what things he needs help with. These are the things that stand out to me. I do want to dive a little into the “pass-catching back” conversation, so let’s.
A lot of argument points against Chuba come at the expense of his pass-catching. Or lack thereof. Can you knock a player for a skill set that you don’t have enough evidence for? I’d like to think we don’t, but I know this community loves to write their takes in stone. For reference, and to include at least a couple numbers in this for all you number people let’s have a look:
From 2017-2019 Jonathan Taylor played 41 games and had 43 receptions; from 2018-2020 Chuba Hubbard played in 33 games and had 50 receptions. Less games, more receptions to everyone’s favorite running back.
For an Oklahoma State Comparison from 2015-2016 Chris Carson played 21 games with 30 receptions and from 2016-2018 Justice Hill played 36 games with 49 receptions.
Mike Gundy has never been keen to lean on pass-catching backs. It’s not his play style. From 2011-2014 Desmond Roland played 35 games, he had a total of 11 receptions in that time. Rennie Child from 2013-2016 played in 43 games, and only saw 18 receptions. Oklahoma State is affectionately called WRU (Wide Receiver U) by fans for a reason.
What Went Wrong: 2020
From bonafide top three running back to barely sneaking into top 10s.
Firstly, off field issues: a global pandemic hit, meaning Chuba was not permitted to return to Canada for the birth of his first nephew. Then, his head coach was photographed wearing propaganda, which Chuba stood up to for himself and his teammates. And that’s just the half of it.
Now let’s look at what was different on the field. After the 2019 season redshirt senior three year starting center Johnny Wilson and redshirt senior four year starting left guard Marcus Keyes ran out of eligibility. The two of them combined for 74 starts in orange and black. The remaining offensive lineman totaled 62 starts collectively. Bryce Bray had 10 of those starts and was dismissed for violating team rules. Fifth year senior Dylan Gollaway accounted for another 14 of those starts – he retired from football before the season started. The most experienced offensiver lineman was transfer Josh Sills who came to Oklahoma State from West Virginia University before the 2020 season. Week one against Tulsa, two of the starting offensiver lineman, Cole Birminham and Hunter Anthony, sustained multiple week long injuries.
Long story short: Oklahoma State’s offensive line was a band-aid of inexperience and youth. Josh Sills had to play on every part of that line. There was zero consistency.
What I’m Trying to Say Is…
If you loved Chuba in 2019, and you’re now fading Chuba after seven games in an unprecedented year – I will eat up all that value.