Herron’s Return Could Help Fill Leadership Void
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spend 10 minutes at an Ohio State football practice and the one sound that will rise above the clamor is the booming voice of running back Daniel Herron.
Whether it is joking with a teammate on offense, coaching up a young running back or barking at the defense, Herron’s voice resonates over the buzz of bodies flying around, the smack of pads hitting each other and even the echo of coaches barking out instruction.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He’s definitely a vocal guy,” center Michael Brewster said.
“That’s his nature and it’s great to get him back from scout team and back in the huddle with us more often.”
The son of a preacher, Herron has always been a fiery guy, but the fifth-year senior might just be the best vocal leader on the Buckeyes this season. Unfortunately, he hasn’t actually been “on the field” yet, at least not on game days.
Herron has been suspended for the first six games of the year, which has left the Buckeyes without much vocal leadership in the huddle during their 3-3 start.
“There's not someone who just stands out and says, ‘you know, I'm the leader of this team,’ kind of taking over,” said senior linebacker Tony Jackson, who plays primarily on special teams.
“That's not what we have this year. We have it's more of a collective group.”
Head Coach Luke Fickell and his staff created that environment when they decided not to name permanent captains at the start of the season, but maybe part of that was the fact this team doesn’t have a lot of vocal guys outside of Herron and receiver DeVier Posey.
“DeVier is still leading, even with the things the trials he has to go through,” Jackson said.
“Same with Boom. Even though on scout team, they're still leading the team, they're still giving input, still talking to younger guys.”
Sophomore defensive back Christian Bryant said he got a text from Herron every Saturday morning before the first six games of the season. It was a reminder that those guys—Herron, Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas—were with them, even though they couldn’t actually be in the stadium.
Adams and Thomas returned last week for the team’s trip to Nebraska, but Fickell referred to Herron as the guy they have missed the most because of what he brings to the team on and off the field on game days.
“He's a fired up guy. You should have seen him at practice when he was on scout team with us, he was giving us the best looks that you could ever imagine coming from a guy like that,” Jackson said.
“Having that kind of spirit, that kind of emotion on the road is definitely going to help us out.”
The last time Ohio State played at Illinois—which was only a year ago—Herron racked up over 100 yards of offense and scored the game-clinching touchdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
It will be a much different team traveling to Champaign this time around, but the Buckeyes could not have picked a better time for an emotional boost than after back-to-back losses to start Big Ten conference play.
“It’s always great if you can get an extra spark, especially mid-season like this,” Brewster said.
“I know he’s going to bring a lot to the table and now it’s up to us to give him some room and let him do the rest.”
The 5-10, 205-pound senior out of Warren Harding was one of Ohio State’s most dangerous offensive weapons last season, but he may not even be in the starting lineup against Illinois this week.
The Buckeyes didn’t hesitate to put Adams and Travis Howard back in the starting lineup after they returned from suspension, but Herron enters a little bit different situation at tailback.
Junior Jordan Hall was supposed to be the starter while Herron was out, but his two-game suspension opened the door for Carlos Hyde. The bruising sophomore is averaging 5.3 yards per carry this season and he is coming off a 104-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Nebraska.
Regardless, the Buckeyes are going to find a way to get Herron involved with the offense Saturday.
“I can’t wait to have him out there. How he’s going to play or how much is up to coach Doc (Tressel) and coach Fick,” tight end Jake Stoneburner said.
“For me, he’s all-Big Ten. I hope he’s out there a lot making plays. I know he can do it, he’s done it. Overall, it will be a boost to our whole morale with him being out there.”
The last time he was on the field, Herron ran for 87 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. He rushed for 1,155 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior last season, and carried the Buckeyes down the stretch while Pryor’s mobility was limited by a quad injury.
Starting with the Illinois game, Herron amassed over 960 yards and 12 touchdowns over the final nine games of the 2010 season.
“Getting Boom back, you get a 1,000-yard-back back. I think he’s more powerful and faster and stronger than he was last year,” Brewster said.
“He’s making even better cuts than he was last year. I’m really anxious to see. I know he’s ready to go, so we just have to give him some holes and let him do what he does best.”
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