Most Important Buckeyes: No. 5
By Ken Pryor
Urban Meyer has coached some very talented football players in his time. Guys like Alex Smith, Percy Harvin, Joe Haden, Aaron Hernandez and the Pouncey boys all started their paths to the NFL under Meyer’s tutelage.
On the other hand, featured NFL running backs have not been his forte during that same time period.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Enter Carlos Hyde, the 235-pound running back from Naples, Florida. While he wasn’t the prototypical Urban Meyer tailback, Hyde was stellar running the football in Ohio State’s new spread offense this past season.
For that, he earned the No. 5 spot on our postseason countdown of the 20 Most Important Buckeyes for a 12-0 season.
What Made Him Important?
During Meyer’s six year stint at Florida, only one running back (Jeff Demps, 2009) rushed for yards comparable in number to Hyde. Demps ran for 745 yards in 14 games that year, just eight yards more than Hyde had in his first eight games this past season.
Since Meyer was named head coach at Ohio State, many comparisons have been made between his players at Florida and his Ohio State charges. It is only fair to point out, from a pure statistical perspective, none of Meyer’s Florida running backs produced like Carlos Hyde did for him in his first season at Ohio State.
When Meyer first met Carlos Hyde, he was not overly impressed, as Hyde’s twitter-gate episode had done very little to curry favor from the fans or coaches. When asked about Hyde now, the Ohio State coach is all smiles when talking about the Buckeyes’ redshirt junior running back.
“(Hyde) was the kind of guy that didn’t have a great reputation,” Meyer said. “I’ve actually grown to appreciate who he is as a person. I think the perception on him was incorrect.”
Meyer’s new sentiment was no-doubt cemented by a fact many folks tend to forget. Hyde had to deal with a knee sprain that kept him out of 2.5 games in the non-conference schedule. He came back pretty quickly from a very tough medial collateral ligament injury and ran for 140 yards in just his second game back.
Not only did he come back quickly from that injury. He came back in time for the tough conference portion of the schedule beginning with a trip to East Lansing to face the Spartans. Having regained his health, in conference games alone, the Ohio State junior running back emerged to earn a place among the league’s elite.
All Hyde did was average 20 carries a game in league play. Hyde appeared to be rushing stronger as the season progressed. The tougher the opponent, the tougher he ran. In his first three games, Hyde only averaged 53 yards per contest and two touchdowns to start the season. Over the course of the B1G games (8 contests), Hyde averaged 107 yards and had 14 touchdowns including a 146 yard/1 TD outing against Michigan. The way he sealed the fate of the Wolverines by running it down their collective throats seemed to serve as pure vindication for himself.
While that may not qualify him as a Heisman guy, it did make him a cut-from-the-cloth Ohio State guy. The way he hit the holes and broke tackles was precisely the role required of him as a No.1 running back for a damn good undefeated team.
What Would the Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?
Undoubtedly, the Buckeyes would not have gone unbeaten. Bri’onte Dunn nursed injuries and Rod Smith proved he was not quite ready to be a back who could carry the entire load the way Hyde has.
Hyde isn’t a highlight reel runner, but he follows his blockers well. He runs with a passion, aggression, and an attitude that allows him to run hard. He runs hard north-south, using his offensive line to carve into opposing front seven. His importance to the team is magnified as he took pressure and focus off of Braxton Miller, which allowed the electrifying quarterback to make plays in the open field. Without that defenses could key on Miller.
That’s why it is absolutely outstanding news for Meyer and the Buckeyes that Carlos Hyde will return next season to the Ohio State football program. Hyde should only be better if he can stay healthy as a senior.
How Does It Compare to Pre-season Expectations?
I’m not sure the pre-season expectations were all that high considering how Meyer felt about Hyde initially. He came in at No. 5 on our preseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes, but mainly because Jordan Hall was out with a foot injury.
Hyde eventually won the respect of his new head coach, an achievement that wasn’t easy.
“He is one of the most improved players on the team in all areas, just the way he handles himself like a grown man now,” Meyer said. “I have a lot of respect for Carlos, and it was not given, it was earned, the way he has handled his business.”
Since Hyde arrived at OSU in 2009, all he wanted was a chance to prove his doubters wrong.
He was undoubtedly disappointed last year feeling that he didn’t get the playing time he deserved. He seemed to have moved past that this year. He seems to have bought in entirely which has afforded him all the playing time he could want.
There were reasons to doubt whether he was a true leader in back at a place like Ohio State, and whether Carlos Hyde was a difference maker.
You can’t think that anymore.
Most Important Countdown:
No. 6 Johnathan Hankins
No. 7 Bradley Roby
No. 8 Reid Fragel
No. 9 Philly Brown
No. 10 Jack Mewhort
No. 11 Devin Smith
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton