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Healthy again, RB Kendall Hunter blends into Oklahoma State's new pass-happy offense

Go ahead and marvel at the way Oklahoma State can fling the ball all over the field in Dana Holgorsen's new pass-happy offense.

Just don't let running back Kendall Hunter get lost in the shuffle.

"You can't forget about that guy," said Holgorsen, whose offense led the nation in scoring and total yardage last season at Houston.

"He's been great. If it was going to be a difficult transition for anybody in the entire program, it'd be for him because he's been here for four years, he's been an All-American here in the system that they ran. ... If anybody was going to have a gripe about this thing, it'd be Kendall. And Kendall's been nothing but perfect."

The headlines at Oklahoma State have generally been about whether first-year starter Brandon Weeden will be able to replace quarterback Zac Robinson, the school's most prolific offensive player ever. Or maybe how the Cowboys must identify their four top receivers for Holgorsen's spread and how they must replace four starters on the offensive line.

Small wonder Hunter hasn't been the center of attention as Oklahoma State prepares for its Sept. 4 season opener against Washington State. He missed most of last season with a nagging foot injury, washing away some of the memories of his standout 2008 season when he ranked sixth in the nation with 1,555 yards rushing and scored 16 touchdowns.

"Talent-wise, he's as good as anybody I've ever been around. There's a lot of people in this country that think that he may possibly be the best back in the country when he's healthy," Holgorsen said. "He's got tremendous strength, he's got tremendous quickness and when he's out in the open, he can take it.

"He's going to have a chance to do a whole bunch of good stuff this year."

The difference is that Hunter likely will be doing much less of his work after taking a direct handoff in the backfield. More than 60 percent of the plays out of Holgorsen's four-receiver set were passes the past two years at Houston, with almost two-thirds of the plays going through the air last season with quarterback Case Keenum making a darkhorse bid for the Heisman Trophy.

"He's going to get his touches, whether it's catches out of the backfield, handoffs, screens," Weeden said. "Whatever it may be, he's going to get his touches. In order for our offense to function, Kendall's going to touch the ball. We all know that."

Hunter called last season frustrating because he was so close to returning on several occasions. When he did come back, he wasn't his normal, elusive self. Now, he feels like he's back to 100 percent and ready to tackle Holgorsen's new offense.

"I can adjust," said Hunter, a man of few words.

Beyond Hunter, the Cowboys have relatively few proven commodities on either side of the ball. Only sophomore guard Lane Taylor is left from the front line that paved the way for OSU's fourth straight Big 12 rushing title, and the somewhat veteran receiving corps will be tested more than ever before.

After Dez Bryant was suspended for the final nine games of last season, Hubert Anyiam emerged as Robinson's go-to guy but no other receiver caught more than 20 passes last season. In an offense that created more than 600 passes the past two seasons, that leaves plenty of receptions on the table.

The defense also sustained heavy losses, with just three returning starters back from last season plus linebacker Orie Lemon back in the fold after he was sidelined by an injury all of last season.

"We're rolling some new guys in but I think we're more athletic and we have more speed than we've had in a number of years," coach Mike Gundy said. "We just don't have as much experience."