Summer Football Notebook: Graham Taking Control, Cheese Catching Up?
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With quarterback Terrelle Pryor headed for the NFL’s supplemental draft and tailback Boom Herron suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season, Ohio State’s backfield faces as many questions as it has in a decade.
The last time the Buckeyes had this much uncertainty at quarterback and tailback in the same season was 2004, and nobody in Columbus is looking for another year like that.
Pryor and Herron combined for nearly 5,000 yards of offense and 43 touchdowns last season, which leaves a gaping hole in the offense heading into the start of fall camp next month. Herron will be back in week six, and the Buckeyes appear to have plenty of talent to bridge the gap at tailback, but finding a quarterback to lead the offense is going to be the top priority for new Head Coach Luke Fickell and his staff.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It’s kind of nice when you have a quarterback back there who is directing everyone,” said fullback Zach Boren said Wednesday evening.
“That’s the quarterbacks job to know what everyone is doing and direct them. I wouldn’t say he has to be a leader, but he has to be vocal.”
That seemed to fit Pryor perfectly. He never really looked the part of a leader, but he quickly learned how to take control of the huddle. Along with his playmaking ability, Pryor did bring a stabilizing quality to the offense, which is something the Buckeyes will be searching for in their four remaining quarterbacks this fall.
“Take charge. That’s the big thing. If a quarterback comes in—even if you’re young, a freshman or sophomore or a senior, whatever—if you come in and take charge you have my respect,” said Boren, the lone holdover in the backfield until Herron returns.
“Someone who opens up their mouth and says let’s go, this is my offense and let’s roll with it.”
Many would have expected that guy to be senior Joe Bauserman, who has been biding his time behind Pryor for the past three seasons. The 25-year old has been around long enough to know the system and the players, but it was another quarterback who caught Boren’s eye with his command of the huddle during the spring.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Taylor Graham did a little just because he knew everything, he was out directing people and stuff like that,” he said.
“Which is a breath of fresh air, especially with a young guy like that.”
A redshirt freshman out of Illinois, Graham is the son of former Ohio State quarterback Kent Graham. He is a tall, wide-shouldered quarterback with the build of a Robby Schoenhoft, but with an NFL-caliber arm.
“He can throw the ball. He’s very smart. Usually I’ll have to yell out stuff when we’re back in the backfield, but Taylor took control (in the spring),” Boren said.
“He knew everything and knew exactly what he was talking about.”
He is still developing his accuracy and decision-making, but Graham throws a very catchable deep ball. With his blood lines, he also seems to understand the game and the quarterback position as well if not better than the older players, which is why Boren could see him in starting lineup against Akron this fall.
“Yeah I could. I definitely could,” he said.
“He’s a great football player; very, very smart. He has a great arm and stuff but I could also see the other three starting out there behind us.”
Cheese Catching Up
Graham isn’t the only youngster making a splash in the Ohio State backfield. With Herron sidelined by his suspension, there is a buzz about some of the young backs behind him. Names like Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith have captured the attention of the public, but one name that’s not being talked about is Carlos Hyde.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Carlos, who we call ‘cheese,’ is a big running back,” said Boren, who will be leading the way for whoever gets the football this fall.
“He’s huge but he’s the fastest of them all.”
That might not sound right considering the stature and quickness of guys like Hall and Berry, but apparently Hyde bested them all in straight-line speed during a recent summer workout.
“We ran 40 (yard dashes) before we went on break and he ran like a 4.42 (seconds),” Boren said of the redshirt freshman out of Naples, Fla.
“You don’t really realize how fast he is until he gets out in the open.”
At 6-foot and 235 pounds, Hyde doesn’t look like a back with breakaway speed, but that was the scouting report on him coming out of high school in 2009 and again out of Fork Union Military Academy in 2010.
He was running third or fourth on the depth chart in the spring, but could quickly move up the list this fall with more performances like that.
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