IRVING, Texas – Oklahoma residents shouldn't have trouble recognizing players in the Cowboys' backfield this year.
When former Sooner DeMarco Murray needs a breather, former Oklahoma State running back and fifth-round pick Joseph Randle should be there to pick up the load.
"I think it's going to be fun working with him," Randle said. "I've always been in a situation my whole life to where I've kind of got another guy there to push me, another real good guy. I had Jeremy Smith at Oklahoma State and even all the way back to high school I had another guy with 1,000 yards. So that's nothing new to me. I think we can work well together and make things happen."
Randle doesn't feel disdain toward the teams that passed on him through four rounds, making him a steal as Dallas' second pick on the third day of the draft. He's just glad to be a Cowboy once again, describing Dallas as the best location and situation for him.
As a Cowboy at Oklahoma State, Randle amassed 38 rushing touchdowns in his final two seasons alone. The Dallas Cowboys could use a player with a knack for finding the end zone, as they've compiled just 13 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons combined, with two of those coming from their quarterback.
"When you get in close and you've got the nose for it and you feel like you're going to do anything you can to go score that touchdown within a couple of yards and you've got a full head of steam, it's just about wanting to bad enough," Randle said. "How bad do you want it? Are you going to put that extra something in to get that extra yard? That's what it's about."
That's an attitude the Cowboys need. They're not just getting a goal-line specialist in Randle, either. The durable threat carried more than 200 times each of his last two seasons, taking a career-high 274 carries for 1,417 yards last year. He also had at least 28 receptions every season in college, hauling in a career-high 43 catches in 2011.
Head coach Jason Garrett values what Randle can bring in both the running and passing games. He feels like Randle has all the physical traits for which an NFL team can ask, and he still thinks the 6-foot, 205-pound back will get bigger and stronger.
Needless to say, neither Garrett nor owner/general manager Jerry Jones seem to envision Randle as a special teams player at the beginning of his career.
"We picture him as, ideally, he's the second running back behind Murray," Jones said. "We don't get weak when he's not a special teams player. It's the third running back that bothers you on dressing him on game day that's not participating on special teams. This guy right here … you can make a big case in this day in time that your second running back is going to take snaps, and be a part, like coach described here, out of the backfield, blocking, all the things we think he mirrors relative to Murray, we put starter out beside him.
"When we say starter, right there, we really could envision him coming in and having that many plays a game. One of the advantages, one of the reasons we wanted him was because he really mirrors a lot of what Murray is, relative to a complete three-down back."
Before Randle can start living up to those expectations, he must focus on getting healthy. He injured his right thumb during the season at Oklahoma State and finished the year out before getting surgery. He hurt the thumb again while training and required a second surgery.
Randle will wear a club but will still run and compete during camp. He said he should figure out next week how long he'll need to wear the cast, but he doesn't expect he'll need the protection for more than a month.
"This won't be an issue," Randle said. "I'm still going to be able to train and get my body right. This is when people normally do this kind of stuff if they've got any little thing they've got to get taken care of during the offseason. This is a minor problem."
The Cowboys need all the healthy backs they can get, considering how injuries have held Murray back the last two seasons, keeping him out of six games last year.
It'd be hard to imagine Randle, a Doak Walker Award semifinalist who started all 13 games for Oklahoma State each of the last two seasons, will be limited for long.
"I'll be ready to go," he said.