The Oregon State rushing game has been is a state of under-achieving since the latter portion of Jacquizz Rogers' career.
A high-powered pro-style passing game took some snaps away from the rushing game, and injuries, at the position, and to the offensive line, has had a lot to do with it, but even when called upon, the position collectively has been inconsistent in delivering.
That's been difficult to deal with for a program used to the likes, and the production, of Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard, and 'Quizz.
It's also something new head coach Gary Andersen has charged running backs coach Telly Lockette with fixing.
Lockette, whose' experience is more at the high school level than the college level, was one of the more eye-brow raising hiring's by Andersen as he assembled his staff.
Most of the new assistants were either familiar to Oregon St. fans, or made sense when they read their bios, being coaches whom Andersen had worked with previously, and mostly from the west.
Lockette was different. Though he played in the west in his college days, at Idaho St., Lockette is a south Florida guy. Many wondered if he would fit in in Corvallis.
Turns out he has fit in perfectly, and its looking like he will produce the results Andersen is hoping for.
Lockette has delivered on the recruiting trail, and his experience in Pocatello doubtless has helped communicate to some prospects who are from about as different, and far away place, from Corvallis as possible, not only what Oregon State has to offer, but how they can adjust to total life-style change.
But the real test will come when the Beavers need to run the ball, which we won't know until at least well into the first month of the season. Early results are encouraging, though.
Under Coach Mike Riley, the running back coach wasn't one of the premier members of the staff, and was even a graduate assistant at one point. That shouldn't be taken as a shot at Riley; it was a fairly common way of setting up the staff under NCAA limits on numbers.
Staff limits have changed though, and Andersen has re-emphasized the job. And Lockette seems to be delivering, based on the way the backs look so far in camp, and more importantly, the way Storm Barrs-Woods has talked about the situation.
Barrs-Woods has been around the block, and as a senior, isn't going to be "sold" on a new way of doing things based on rhetoric. Though he wants to go out on a successful season, it was not a given he would buy-in. That he has, in a situation where the presence of Chris Brown and a bulldozer in the form of Damien Haskins, and the idea of there being pressure on Barrs-Woods' carries and status as the #1 running back, says a lot.
The situation, and then the loss for the season of JC transfer Tim Cook, has created a sense of urgency.
"I like it because it forces everybody to be on their Ps and Qs," Barrs-Woods said. "Usually, if a guy is sixth string and he has five guys in front of him... I'm not saying it happens, but it could be that guy doesn't have to push as hard, because he knows he's not the starter. But in this case, our coach (Lockette) does a great job of separating reps evenly and staying on us evenly."
Lockette has balanced the work between Barrs-Woods, above, the apparent day 1 starter, with Brown still working his way back from off-season surgery, and the rest of the position group, both in scrimmage-like drills, and in position group work.
"He treats everybody like they're the starter, and that's what we're doing," Barrs-Woods explained. "We don't have a starter right now. We haven't named a starter at running back, so we're all out there competing, and that's what I love."
Barrs-Woods might be speaking more of the way things work out as the season progresses than in the opener against Weber St., as far as not having a starter set, but Lockette's approach is clearly not one of discounting Barrs-Woods' role as it is getting everyone as ready as they can be.
Andersen had Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin, and there's no apparent Melvin Gordon-like option on hand right now in Corvallis. But Andersen wants to run the ball in a similar way, and with Lockette's work, the results might not fall that far short of what Badger fans enjoyed.