April 8, 2010

Youth is rising at running back

For all of the talk about Ohio State's offense taking it to the next level and what may be in the future with Terrelle Pryor everyone has to take a step back and remember that the Buckeyes are primarily a running team. In the 2009 season Ohio State averaged more than 195 yards per game on the ground and ranked among the top 20 in that stat.

Going into 2010 there will be plenty of attention on Pryor and the passing game but at the same time you can't expect a zebra to change its stripes and the Buckeyes will still move the chains on the ground. The tandem of Dan Herron and Brandon Saine will be back to build on their 2009 numbers but joining the huddle will be a handful of new backs and one that got a little bit of a taste last season.

The Buckeyes welcome Carlos Hyde to the mix this spring after the class of 2009 running back took a detour on his way to Columbus to sure up some academic work. Also working his way back up the depth chart is Jaamal Berry who was on everyone's short list for 2009 until a hamstring injury forced the talented Floridian to redshirt. Add Jordan Hall to the mix after a 48 carry campaign as a freshman and the Buckeyes have no less than five guys who could go next year (not counting out summer incomer Rod Smith).

"I think we have such a diverse group of guys that we have a back for any down and I think that it is going to help us and make us all better," Saine said.

Hyde will bring a little bit of a different look to the Ohio State huddle checking in at 6-foot and 235 pounds. Hyde enrolled at the start of Winter Quarter and has a leg up on his fellow incoming teammates but the loss of the 2009 season will force Hyde to play catch-up.

"We missed having him practice last fall," running back coach Dick Tressel said. "That is going to slow full contribution to the Buckeyes down but hopefully the other guys are handling it so he doesn't have to do something before he is ready. He will be ready to do it."

Hyde was held out of contact during Thursday's practice after Tressel confirmed a hamstring injury that was suffered during a punt drill after Hyde attempted to block a punt. That is an injury that is all too familiar for Berry who had to sit last year because of a similar hamstring injury.

"(Hyde) is going to have to deal with some of the issues that Jaamal Berry had to deal with last year, how to handle a little adversity when you come from a situation where your last little bit of time in football that things were going your way." Tressel added.

Hall was the surprise guy out of the bunch coming in as the smallest back but after Hyde did not make it into school and with injuries to Berry and Herron the former teammate of Pryor made the most of his time on the field averaging 5.2 yards per carry and a touchdown (vs. Minnesota) in a limited role.

"With Jordan you can see him out there, he is kind of small and it is hard for the defensive players to see him behind the huge offensive linemen and he does a great job running with us," Saine said.

Any speculation that Hall would redshirt in order to allow some spacing between backs has been labeled just speculation by the coaches.

"There would have to be some other issue than numbers to have Jordan Hall redshirt," Tressel said. "He would have to be injured or something because he is a good player and he is going to play."

And not to get lost in the mix is Smith who has been working hard to get all of the I's dotted and T's crossed before graduation.

"Rod is really doing well and he is healthy," Tressel said. "He is not running track though so he is finishing his academic year and making sure he is on top of his studies and everything. He ran track and was on a state runner-up 4x100m team last year. But his track coach is also his football coach and says that he needs to get ready and that he is going to be a great college tailback."

Competition is supposed to bring the best out of a player and if that is any indication there will be some solid running backs going into the 2010 season for Ohio State.

"It is very fun to watch guys fight for position because it is just like how (myself) and Brandon were when we first came in," Herron said. "We were hungry to get out there on the field and make some plays so it is definitely a good thing to see guys out there competing. (Myself) and Brandon also have to compete because it is nobody's spot to have. We are all competing together and all getting better."

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