Five for Friday: Running Backs

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Last updated: 08/02/2013 12:50 PM
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Football
Five for Friday: Carlos Hyde's Replacements
By Tony Gerdeman

With Carlos Hyde serving at least a three-game suspension, the question now turns to who will replace him. Coming into the season, when Hyde was still expected to be around, the 2013 Ohio State running back stable was looking like one of the best in school history.

Even without Hyde, there's still plenty of talent on hand, but obviously the larger question is whether a player will emerge who can be counted on the way that Hyde was to end the season last year.

Of course, the Buckeyes didn't necessarily have that type of tailback in the first three games of the season last year either, and things still turned out alright.

Though, if Braxton Miller is going to survive a third season as a starter, he could use some help right out of the gate this year. So with that in mind, here are the players who are going to pick up his slack.

Rod Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Rod Smith

1. Rod Smith (6-3 238), Redshirt Junior
(Career rushing: 61 carries, 331 yards, 5.42 avg, 3 TDs)
Rod Smith left the spring as the Buckeyes' #2 tailback behind Carlos Hyde. He now becomes the leader to win the job that has been left behind. However, he only has 61 career carries to his credit, and has five fumbles in just 65 career touches. Smith's ball security is a frequent topic of discussion, but as a complete tailback, he is tremendously skilled. He had a 33-yard touchdown run against Nebraska last season, and a 51-yard touchdown reception against Illinois on a wheel route. He is a load to bring down when he gets started, but being known as a fumbler will mean that defenses will come after the football even more than they normally would. He still has plenty to prove – he has just 20 career carries in Big Ten play – but he is still one of the most talented ball carriers in the conference.

Bri'onte Dunn
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bri'onte Dunn

2. Bri'onte Dunn (6-0 222), Sophomore
(Career rushing: 25 carries, 133 yards, 5.3 avg, 2 TDs)
Bri'onte Dunn battled redshirt freshman Warren Ball for the #3 spot during the spring, and depending on the day, they flip-flopped quite a bit. Dunn only carried the ball in three games last season, rushing for 31 yards in the season opener against Miami (OH), 29 yards against UCF and 73 yards against Illinois on 13 carries. Dunn was solid in the spring, showing the ability to get the get the extra yard or two. Even though he's a big back, he's able to contort himself when in the scrum and become skinny. He may not have the vision of the other backs, but he's just fine at moving forward. He hits the hole hard and easily breaks arm tackles. When he comes into the game, defenses can't relax.

Warren Ball
Photo by Jim Davidson
Warren Ball

3. Warren Ball (6-1 222), Redshirt Freshman
(Career rushing: None)

Warren Ball had perhaps the best spring of any of the tailbacks. He was consistently productive, and occasionally explosive. He has the speed to get to the corner, and the weight behind him to make a defender pay. Even though he can lower a shoulder, he prefers to make them miss. He's incredibly quick and shifty despite his size, and his running style borrows from several genres. Running backs coach Stan Drayton said that Ball may be the best of the tailbacks when running in space. He could be the first back off the bench while Carlos Hyde is out, and given that he has yet to see the field, you can expect him to be a bit excited to be out there. Ball would be a starter at most other Big Ten schools, but at Ohio State he will be fighting for every snap.

4. Ezekiel Elliott (6-0 210), Freshman
(Career rushing: None)

When Ezekiel Elliott committed to Ohio State, he was considered a speed back. However, at his size, speed isn't his only measurable. Elliott had a ridiculous career in high school, rushing for over 3,900 yards just in the last two seasons alone. He scored 90 touchdowns in those two seasons as well. There has been talk by some that Elliott might redshirt, but Urban Meyer has said that all of the freshman speedsters must play this year, and that includes Elliott. He may not get many series of his own this season, but he should find himself dropped in for some spot duty here and there. The Buckeyes will run several two-back sets, and sneaking an unknown quantity like Elliott into the mix could catch a defender off guard.

5. Dontre Wilson (5-10 174), Freshman
(Career rushing: None)
Dontre Wilson has already been talked about plenty around here, and that's because he's already been talked about plenty by his teammates. Like Elliott, don't expect Wilson to get seven carries on a 10-play drive, but do expect him to be used to bring a little chaos to an opposing defense. Urban Meyer wants to stress a defense both north and south, and east and west. The only way to stress a defense east and west is with track speed, and Wilson brings that to this offense. While he may not ever be a workhorse tailback, expect him to be used quite a bit to bring stress to a defense. Some may use the term "change of pace" running back, but the pace with this offense is to always move forward, and quickly. Wilson is more of a "change of stress" back.

Jordan Hall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

Bonus: Jordan Hall (5-8 197), Redshirt Senior
(Career rushing: 224 carries, 1,032 yards, 4.6 avg, 6 TDs)
Even though Jordan Hall was moved to H-back and played no tailback this spring, it's still his natural position, and he's incredibly experienced. That being said, don't expect the Buckeyes to scrap their existing plans for Hall, as his presence on the field in the slot, and elsewhere, will probably be of more benefit to the running game than he himself could provide at the tailback position. There's plenty of existing running back talent, and pushing Hall ahead of them could stunt their growth. Anyway, like Wilson, Hall's actual purpose is to put stress on the defense. Simply by being out there and moving around, the offense will be able to control how many defenders there are in the box, which will give them a numbers advantage on most snaps.

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