Berry Expected Back but Role Uncertain
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If the saying is true that speed kills, then Jaamal Berry is a stone-cold killer.
The sophomore tailback out of Miami might have the best straight-away jets on the roster, but a fast running back with a bad hamstring is like a sports car without gas.
It isn’t going anywhere.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That’s precisely where Berry has been going this fall, but he may finally have fuel in the engine heading into Ohio State’s week-two matchup with Toledo.
“The hamstring is 100 percent,” OSU running backs coach Dick Tressel declared after Wednesday’s practice.
“The battle is going to be getting him game-ready.”
Berry has not practiced much since pulling his hamstring prior to the team’s jersey scrimmage back in mid-August. He was expected to miss the first 2-3 weeks of the season, but was surprisingly back in uniform for the Buckeyes’ season-opener against Akron.
“He would have been really an emergency. It would have been run straight ahead and don’t score kind of thing,” said Tressel, who also coaches the special teams at Ohio State.
“He could have gone in, but there’s a long season here and the tables turn quick. You don’t want to jeopardize anyone for the long haul.”
Sophomore Carlos Hyde and redshirt freshman Rod Smith did a good enough job carrying the load against the Zips that Ohio State never had to worry about putting Berry in harm’s way.
After warming up with the team, he stayed on the sideline as the Buckeyes put up 42 points without some of their biggest playmakers on offense. Berry certainly fits that category, but he won’t be thrust back onto the field ahead of a guy like Hyde.
“He’ll have a plan,” OSU Head Coach Luke Fickell said before Thursday’s practice.
“He’ll have some opportunities. It might start with being a kick returner to start with, but those guys did a great job performing in front of him last week and we’re going to roll with that.”
That has been Fickell’s philosophy since he took over the program for Jim Tressel this off-season. Whether it is a suspended guy like Jordan Hall or someone battling an injury, like Berry, everyone has to earn their right to step on the field in Scarlet and Gray.
“(We want to) make sure that those guys understand that when those opportunities arrive, they have to take advantage of them,” Fickell said.
“We like to see how guys handle that, how guys react and respond to coming back and not being shoved right back into the spot they were before. We understand injuries happen, but we’re going to do what’s best for the team.”
Dick Tressel said Wednesday that the best thing for the Buckeyes this week would be to start Carlos Hyde at tailback after his 93-yard performance against Akron in the season-opener.
Exactly where Hall and Berry fit in after Hyde is yet to be determined, at least not publically. With Boom Herron suspended until week six, they were Ohio State’s top two backs during fall camp, but this isn’t camp anymore.
Hall’s ability to play multiple roles—including kick and punt return—means he will likely get on the field in some capacity early on, but Berry could have to wait his turn yet again.
“We’re working hard to get him game ready,” Tressel said.
“We’re working him at scout team, kick return and everything on the offense so he’s ready to be a football player as well as healthy.”
Until then, Berry will just have to settle for looking good in the driveway.
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