Buckeye Rewind: Running Backs

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Last updated: 01/07/2013 1:27 PM

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2012 Buckeye Rewind – Running Backs
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In our 2012 Buckeye Rewind series, we will take a look back at the 2012 Ohio State football team for a better understanding of how Urban Meyer pieced together one of the great seasons – in many ways one of the great teams – in school history.

So far we’ve touched on the Quarterbacks and Defensive Ends , and today we flip back over to the offensive side of the ball for a closer look at Carlos Hyde and the OSU running back position.

Expectations Coming Into The Season

Jordan Hall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

All signs during the spring pointed towards Jordan Hall as the guy to replace Boom Herron in the Buckeye backfield. Carlos Hyde was going to have a role as well, but Hall received all kinds of praise from Meyer and his coaching staff for making a complete transformation during the offseason.

He went from a guy who was suspended early in the 2011 season to team captain heading into his senior season with the Buckeyes, but then he was suddenly on the sideline in a walking boot for Ohio State’s spring game at the end of April. He had apparently sprained his foot, or something of the equivalent, during practice, but it wasn’t expected to keep him out for very long.

Hyde took over as the team’s primary back in the spring game, with sophomore Rod Smith and freshman Bri’onte Dunn battling for the No. 2 spot while Hall recovered from his injury. He was expected to be back for the start of fall camp, but them came the freak incident over the summer involving Hall, his dog, and a piece of glass he didn’t say laying in the grass.

Hall stepped on the glass while he was taking his dog for a walk, and it severed a tendon by the base of his big toe. It was a big loss for the Buckeyes, who were hoping Hall could be back during the non-conference schedule – or at least for the start of Big Ten play – to fill the “Percy Harvin” role in Meyer’s new offense.

How the Season Played Out

With Hall out for the start of the season, Hyde was once again asked to step in and carry the load for the Buckeyes. Unlike last season, Hyde had no intention of giving the job back to Hall, or anyone else, during his junior season in Columbus.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

The 6-foot, 230-pound back out of Naples, Fla. ran for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns during Ohio State’s 56-10 win over Miami University in the season-opener. However, he injured his knee during a week two win over UCF, and freshman Bri’onte Dunn emerged as the guy who was supposed to carry the load in his absence.

Dunn had beaten out Smith for the backup spot during fall camp, and he carried the ball five times for 29 yards against the Knights. Quarterback Braxton Miller did most of the heavy lifting in that game, but the Buckeyes would get a boost the next week as Jordan Hall returned to the lineup.

He ran for 87 on 17 carries in a narrow victory over Cal, and then topped 100 yards on the ground the following week against UAB. Things were looking up for Meyer and the Buckeyes, as Hyde prepared for his return against Michigan State in the Big Ten opener.

They were finally going to have both of their backs healthy at once, but that would prove to be short-lived. While Hyde played with a bulky brace on his knee, Hall went down with a knee injury of his own. The senior partially tore his PCL against Michigan State, and it would ultimately be the last we would see of Hall during the 2012 season.

Hyde, on the other, exploded on to the scene as one of the best backs in the country the rest of the year. It started with a 140-yard, four-touchdown performance against Nebraska in week six. He followed that with 156 yards and a score at Indiana.

Rod Smith
Photo by Jim Davidson
Rod Smith

That was about the same time Rod Smith emerged as true No. 2 back to Hyde, rushing for a combined 78 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries against the Cornhuskers and Hoosiers.

Hyde would rush for over 100 yards in four of the last seven games, including 146 yards and a touchdown against Michigan in the season finale. That came a week after Hyde scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Wisconsin.

He finished his junior season just 30 yards shy of 1,000, but he did finish second in the Big Ten with 16 rushing touchdowns this season.

What Should We Expect in 2013

A lot depends on what happens with Hyde, who is reportedly contemplating a jump to the NFL after the way he closed out his junior campaign over the last seven weeks of the season. Remember, Hyde is four years removed from high school because he spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy before enrolling at Ohio State.

It appears as though Hyde will likely return next season, and if he does, there is no question who this team’s starting running back will be during the 2013 season. It also appears that Rod Smith is ready to take the next step, and the Buckeyes should have both Jordan Hall and Warren Ball back from season-ending injuries, but this is Hyde’s show if he wants to run it.

Hall is expected to get a medical redshirt for last season – he was a true senior out of Jeannette, Pa. – and he should also factor in heavily to the offense next season. Hyde has proven to be too valuable as the power back behind this offensive line for Hall to walk in and supplant him, but this staff should be able to find a number of different ways to get both Hyde and Hall on the field together.

Final Thoughts

It will be interesting to see how good this offense can be next year if both Hyde and Hall are back at full strength. Those two have such different skill sets, it’s hard for me to believe they can’t coexist with Braxton Miller and the other playmakers on this offense.

Running backs coach Stan Drayton was the one who said they couldn’t really run Meyer's offense the way it was designed without a guy like Hall to play that Harvin role. They should have a couple of those guys next year with Hall coming back and a pair of incoming freshmen named Ezekiel Elliott and Jalin Marshall.

After that, it will be interesting to see what they do with Rod Smith, who has shown some tremendous explosion in his running, and Dunn, who looked good in a limited role last season. There may not be enough carries to go around if everyone is healthy, but we should know by now that never seems to be the case in the Big Ten.

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