Depth Chart: Tailbacks

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Last updated: 05/31/2012 12:38 PM

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Football
Breaking Down Urban’s Depth Chart: Tailbacks

By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In this new era of Ohio State football, two-deeps actually mean something now.

In fact, they mean a whole lot.

At least to Urban Meyer; or at least he says they do.

Ohio State’s first-year head coach recently released his first-ever depth chart following the Buckeyes’ 15 spring practices back in April. There were not many surprises in the OSU two-deep, but there was plenty to talk about.

Their first game is on Sept. 1 in Ohio Stadium. How much different will the depth chart look three months from now? We’re going to break down Urban’s first depth chart for a closer look at how things might develop over the summer and during the 29 practices in the fall.

Let’s continue with the TAILBACKS…

Pre-spring pecking order:

Jordan Hall
Photo by Dan Harker
Jordan Hall

Jordan Hall starting with Carlos Hyde right behind him and Rod Smith a somewhat distant third.

We knew going into spring that Hall and Hyde were going to be Ohio State’s top two backs out of the gate. They were far-and-away the team’s top two tailbacks last season before Boom Herron returned from his suspension. Even after they got Herron back, it seemed like they needed to find more ways to get the ball into the hands of both Hall and Hyde.

Smith got some carries early in the year, but had a fumbling problem that landed him permanently on the bench after the nonconference schedule. He was even talked about as a potential transfer in the offseason, but Smith stuck around to see if he could make things happen with the new staff.

He received some new company in the spring with addition of early enrollee Bri’onte Dunn, a freshman from Canton Glenoak High School. 

Post-spring depth chart:

Hall and Hyde out in front with Smith and Dunn battling for the No. 3 spot in Stan Drayton’s pecking order.

Meyer had some complimentary things to say about Hall at the start of spring camp, but also pointed out that his numbers have never matched his ability. Part of that was Hall’s immaturity, which is why Drayton sat him down for a 1-on-1 talk about becoming the leader this team needs in the backfield.

Hall apparently responded well to Drayton’s talk, and upped his gpa from 2.0 during Fall Quarter to a 3.4 in his first full quarter under Meyer and Mickey Marotti. Hall also responded by accepting a chance to play the ‘Pivot’ roll in Meyer and Tom Herman’s new offense.

It is a critical position, played by guys like Percy Harvin in the past, and Meyer seemed very pleased with what he saw from Hall before a foot injury sidelined him for the spring game.

Hall playing the “Pivot” roll should open up more carries in the backfield for Hyde, who will fit nicely in some of Meyer’s power packages. While the formations and movements will be new, many of the power blocking schemes are similar to what Ohio State has run in the past.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

Hyde and Hall were the only two tailbacks listed on the post-spring depth chart. With Zach Boren set to get some carries this fall, Smith and Dunn will have to show a lot in the fall if they are going to stay in the rotation.

Who is missing?: The Buckeyes will add another name to the mix this summer when freshman Warren Ball joins Dunn, his classmate from the 2012 recruiting class, at Ohio State.

Ball is a Columbus native who played at St. Francis DeSales, and he is another big back who can run between the tackles or catch the ball out of the backfield like he did in the North-South All-Star Classic.

Like Dunn, Ball was a 4-star prospect in the class of 2012, and he was rated as the No. 16 tailback in the country by Rivals.com.

Susceptible to Change or Set in Stone:

Susceptible to change, but not for long.

Drayton said he plans to keep an open mind about the backfield rotation heading into the fall. He wasn’t going to lock things in stone after the spring, the way many of Meyer’s assistants planned to do.

Rod Smith
Photo by Dan Harker
Rod Smith

Tailback is such a fluid position, where teams typically need 3-4 guys throughout the season. That was certainly the case a year ago, when their loaded backfield was suddenly down to two for the opener after injuries and suspensions to the other guys.

How much time Hall spends at the “Pivot” position will determine how many extra reps will be available for guys like Smith, Dunn and Ball. The potential is there for one of them to really show something in fall camp.

That would grab Meyer’s attention, because he is constantly in search of guys who can make plays and move the chains. Smith has flashed glimpses of that, but they have only been glimpses. This might be his last chance to make a statement, one way or another.

If he has a good fall camp, it’s very possibly Smith could get some carries early in the season. If he doesn’t show up, he may quickly find himself behind one or both of the new freshmen.

Overall prognosis:

For the second year in a row, the Buckeyes have great depth at running back, but only one guy gets to be out there carrying the ball. They really need their top two backs — right now Hall and Hyde — to take it to another level.

Meyer has never had a 1,000 yards rusher at running back, and that trend will probably continue this season, if only because there will be a couple different guys getting the ball. Hyde is the darkhorse to emerge as a true workhorse for the Buckeyes this fall, especially with Meyer and Herman looking for different ways to get Hall the football in space.

That is going to be an important part of what Ohio State does offensively. If they can get Hyde going on the inside run game and Hall out on the perimeter, they might have something to build on.

Add Boren to the mix as an inside ball-carrier, and what this team really needs is a guy who can break out outside and make a few guys miss. Meyer would love for that to be Smith, but don’t be surprised if Dunn makes a strong move early in fall camp.

Urban's take:

“Jordan Hall has already showed me that (he can be a playmaker). A guy that had an excellent practice today was Carlos Hyde. Excellent practice. He's drinking the Kool-aid right now.”

Related Links:

Breaking Down Tight Ends

Breaking Down Quarterbacks

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