July 6, 2012

Replacing Herron will take group effort

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With Ohio State's fall camp a month away from kicking off, we at Buckeye Grove have decided to take a look at the roster that Urban Meyer will be working with in his first year as Ohio State's head coach. Today, we'll take a look at the current state of the Buckeyes' running backs. You can see yesterday's preview of the Ohio State fullbacks and tight ends by clicking here.

After Dan Herron graduated following the 2011 seasons, it appeared that the emergence of Jordan Hall was enough to prevent questions of who will replace the former three-year starter from popping up. That notion, however, seems to have been a bit premature, as an injury to Hall has now brought that question to the forefront of every Buckeye fan's mind.

A senior who Ohio State coach Urban Meyer named as his top playmaker following spring camp, Hall suffered an accidental cut to his foot on June 27 and is expected to miss the next 10 weeks of action after undergoing surgery on June 29. The injury will likely keep Hall out of at least the Buckeyes' first two games this fall.

That's bad news for Meyer, who was counting on the speedy Hall to play the Buckeyes' pivot position, the same running back/wide receiver position that helped make Percy Harvin and Jeff Demps famous at Florida. Hall's injury could prove to have just minimal damage on the Ohio State season- especially if the Jeannette, Pa. native can return by the start of Big Ten play- but should his recovery take longer than expected, it's also possible that Hall could redshirt in order to return for the 2013 season.

While also being used as the Buckeyes' primary kick and punt returner, Hall gained 405 yards and scored two touchdowns rushing the ball, and added 114 yards and three touchdowns through the Ohio State passing game. The 5-foot-9, 195 pound Hall is confident that his understudies have put in adequate work in the offseason.

"Everybody still, no matter of where you are on the depth chart, is still working because injuries happen," Hall said in the spring. "You never know, you could be in on the next play so everyone is still working as if the depth chart didn't come out."

Should Hall not be able to return- or should Meyer not be able to find a suitable replacement for the pivot- a trio of more traditional running backs could help make up for the absence of Meyer's top playmaker.

The first player who will get a shot at replacing Hall will be junior Carlos Hyde, who Meyer listed as his No. 3 playmaker at the end of spring camp. At 6-feet tall and 238 pounds, Hyde showed promise in 2011, gaining 566 yards and scoring six touchdowns on the ground, but he saw his playing time reduced once Herron and Hall returned from suspensions.

Hyde figured to factor prominently in the Ohio State offense regardless of Hall's status, but should Hall miss more time than expected, the burden placed on the Naples, Fla. native's shoulders is only going to increase.

Helping lighten the load for Hyde will be 6-foot-3, 230 pound third-year sophomore Rod Smith. The Fort Wayne, Ind. product figured to see significant playing time a season ago when Herron and Hall missed time, but issues holding on to the ball relegated Smith to just 116 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries.

A wildcard in the Ohio State backfield this season will be true freshman Bri'onte Dunn. An early enrollee whose recruitment battle between Ohio State and Michigan came down to the wire, Dunn has impressed Meyer and his staff to the point where it would be hard to imagine the Canton, Ohio native not finding his onto the field this fall.

"I wasn't a Bri'onte fan, and then something interesting happened. I went and visited his family and they are incredible people," Meyer said. "One of the best home visits I've ever been in and we left there thinking 'He's a product of a great family' and we're excited to have him. He really did a nice job."

At 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, Dunn is best suited for a power running game, something that Meyer has repeatedly said he will not completely abandon, regardless of his ties to the spread.

Joining the Buckeyes on campus this fall is four-star recruit Warren Ball. With four running backs ahead of him on the depth chart, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Columbus native was once thought to be a likely candidate to redshirt, but thanks to Hall's injury, it's possible that Ball could see some touches in 2012.

Other running backs on the OSU roster include junior walk-ons Spencer DeLande and Darryl Wood.


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