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Oklahoma State hoping Barry Sanders' son jump-starts run game

Transferring from Stanford to Oklahoma State got Barry J. Sanders out from behind one of the nation's most prolific rushers -- the Cardinal's Christian McCaffrey -- to a much more favorable depth-chart situation.

Oklahoma State's leading rusher last year, Chris Carson, had just 517 yards. But before anyone sets expectations too high for the son of the former Detroit Lions running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer, OSU coach Mike Gundy cautioned Monday at Big 12 Media Day 1 that his team's run blocking needs a big improvement no matter who takes the starting role in the backfield.

"We weren't very good. When you look back at the last couple years with our running game, we didn't do a good job of covering guys up and giving our backs an opportunity to make a cut," Gundy said. "We've been making too many cuts behind the line of scrimmage. We worked considerably hard in the spring. I feel like we've established some continuity with guys that have to play up front."

Sanders rushed for 315 yards on 51 carries at Stanford last year as a backup to McCaffrey, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He graduated from Stanford last month and has since joined the program at OSU, where he'll be eligible to play this fall. Gundy said he's not had a chance to spend much time with Sanders, but knows he's "mature, he's dependable and seems to be durable." Quarterback Mason Rudolph said Sanders will bring impressive athleticism and change-of-direction skills to the OSU backfield, per KWTV's Dean Blevins.

The elder Sanders holds the NCAA record for single-season rushing yards (2,628), set in 1988 at Oklahoma State.

"In my opinion, his dad was the greatest running back in college football, maybe ever. To have (his son) in our program at this point in his career, I think is great for Oklahoma State football," Gundy added. "When he was in high school, he had expressed a desire to maybe go somewhere else based on, maybe in small part, not following in his dad's footsteps. And I think we can certainly understand that."

Sanders will compete with seniors Carson and Rennie Childs, plus a host of unproven candidates for the job. But he'll need more than just a starting role to show what he couldn't at Stanford. He'll need some help up front, too.

Here are six other things we learned from Big 12 Media Day 1 on Monday:

2. Mahomes improved. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes returns this fall as one of the game's best quarterbacks, and Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury believes he'll be a different player thanks to a spring focus on football rather than baseball.

"The biggest thing was not playing baseball. It's his first full offseason with the football program," Kingsbury said. "The weightlifting, being around his teammates, studying more film, working on mechanics, working on footwork. He just really worked at being a better all-around quarterback. ... I think you'll see a much more refined, athletic, polished quarterback this fall."

Mahomes played very little for the TT baseball team in 2015, so a full-time focus on football in 2016 was well-advised.

3. Kingsbury supports Mayfield ruling. When an extra year of NCAA eligibility for Oklahoma transfer QB Baker Mayfield was at stake earlier this year, his former school didn't stand in the way. Kingsbury confirmed that Texas Tech -- where Mayfield first arrived as a walk-on and became the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2013 -- voted in favor of a rule allowing Mayfield an extra year of eligibility that could keep him at OU through 2017. At issue was whether walk-ons should be subject to the same transfer rule as scholarship players. With the new rule, walk-ons who sit out a season in transferring within the conference (Mayfield sat out 2014) do not also lose a season of eligibility.

4. Rudolph's recovery. Gundy is confident Rudolph will have no lingering effects this year from foot surgery that was required after last season.

"When we finished spring ball, he was very close to being pain free. He's a tough football player and in the bowl game he wasn't 100 percent," Gundy said. "But at this point I have not talked to him about it, but I would guess that he feels like he did prior to the injury, and he's had a really good summer."

Rudolph threw for 3,770 yards last season with 21 touchdowns, and is the nation's ninth-rated quarterback, per analyst Lance Zierlein.

5. Nixon out. TCU coach Gary Patterson said RB Shaun Nixon will miss the season due to an injury. Nixon played wide receiver last season and caught 47 passes for 501 yards, and had been among the candidates to replace Aaron Green, who rushed for 1,272 yards as a senior last year. Patterson did not offer specifics about the injury. The injury opens more of an opportunity for graduate transfer running back Derrick Green, a former five-star recruit who transferred to TCU from Michigan.

6. Bowlsby speculates on divisional play. The Big 12 will begin holding a championship game again after the 2017 season, but the format by which it will pick its qualifiers is still under discussion. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said one potential model would periodically realign two divisions based on the strength of the teams.

"We've talked about an equity-based (system) that would, on a rotational basis, be responsive to how teams are finishing in the overall standings. There's been some talk about staying with one division ... I sense less enthusiasm for that," Bowlsby said. "We could do a geographic designation of some sort. That gets a little difficult going East-West or North-South. Oftentimes, those don't make sense."

7. Quotable. "This conference is completely loaded with ridiculous freaks." -- Kansas coach David Beaty on overall Big 12 talent.

*Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter **@ChaseGoodbread*.

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