Thinking Out Loud: Roby and Hyde

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Last updated: 07/23/2013 0:30 AM
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Football
Thinking Out Loud: Losing Roby Would Be Devastating, but Loss of Hyde Could Hurt Title Chances
By Brandon Castel

Before we get started, let me just say I already know what you’re thinking. No really, I know that thought in the back of your mind even if you don’t realize you’re thinking it. It’s in there, you’ll believe me soon enough.

Carlos Hyde
Photo by Jim Davidson
Carlos Hyde

For starters, Monday was a rough day for everyone who bleeds scarlet and gray. Somehow, it managed to be, in some ways, worse than anyone had imagined. While everyone was waiting to learn the status of tailback Carlos Hyde, the subject of rampant speculation over the weekend, we were blindsided with the news of Bradley Roby’s arrest in Bloomington over the weekend.

Exactly what Bradley Roby was doing in Bloomington, Indiana in the middle of July, just a few days before he was scheduled to appear in Chicago for the Big Ten media days, is way beyond my pay grade. More importantly, it’s the second summer in a row where two players who were expected to lead the Buckeyes in the fall have captured offseason headlines for allegedly breaking the law.

The allegations against Roby and Hyde are obviously a whole lot more serious than urinating on a building, and the real problem for Urban Meyer, other than the fact he might lose his starting tailback, is that this team doesn’t have guys like John Simon, Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino leading the way. This 2013 team probably has more pure talent than last year’s squad, but Ohio State has a major leadership problem right now. Bradley Roby, along with fellow seniors Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett, was supposed to be one of the key leaders on defense.

Losing Roby Would Be Devastating

Bradley Roby
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bradley Roby

Now he’s probably going to miss the start of the season. If he misses any more than that, the Buckeyes could be looking at bumpy start to Meyer’s second season in Columbus. That brings me back to my original point. While the loss of Carlos Hyde would be a blow to Ohio State’s title chances, the loss of Roby would have been catastrophic. Forget the fact the Buckeyes have very little experience at corner behind Roby, the fourth-year junior is clearly the best player on the team not named Braxton Miller.

For a defense that lost four senior captains in Simon, Sabino, Boren and Garrett Goebel, along with star junior Johnathan Hankins from last year’s 12-0 team, the loss of Roby might have been too much to bear. If he does have to miss any time, and my guess would be a one-game suspension with Roby having to work his way back into good standing, Armani Reeves would be the next logical choice to step in across from junior Doran Grant.

We saw what happened against UAB when Roby sat out because of a shoulder injury, and I believe the defense will struggle to replace his energy and confidence, along with the electricity he brings on the back end. Not many people are more valuable to this OSU team than Roby, who could be the best defensive back in the country if he can stay away from Bloomington.

Loss of Hyde Could Hurt Title Chances

Here is where my point comes full circle. While most of us can agree that losing Roby would be pretty devastating for Ohio State’s national title hopes this season, there seems to be an overwhelming belief that losing Hyde would only cause a minor ripple in the sea of perfection.

It’s easy to understand where this feeling comes from. While fans would miss watching No. 34 in the backfield, there is this underlying sense that maybe something better is just beneath the surface. Having Hyde back meant the Buckeyes would have the bulk of their offense intact from last season, but it also meant another year of waiting for guys like Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball.

Like it or not, a part of you was actually excited to think about those three guys finally getting a chance to show what they can do. I admit, there is an allure to the unknown, but make no mistake about it, this would not be addition by subtraction. If Carlos Hyde isn’t reinstated from his indefinite suspension, the Buckeyes will be without a major piece of the championship puzzle.

They already slipped from 9-2 odds to 11-2 according to Cosmo Sportsbook after today’s drama, which also included the suspension of freshman Marcus Baugh and the dismissal of classmate Timothy Gardner. Neither of those things have much impact on the 2013 season, but the loss of Carlos Hyde would leave a huge void in the backfield, one I’m not sure any of the other guys on this team are ready to fill.

That doesn’t mean Hyde’s backups are lacking for talent. In terms of sheer ability, Rod Smith might be the best back on the roster. He’s 6-3 and built like a Greek god with enough speed and wiggle to take a handoff and dance 60 yards to paydirt. He could be that good, but Rod Smith has a total of 20 carries in his career. Carlos Hyde carried the ball 26 times against Michigan alone last season, racking up 146 big yards on the ground in a 26-21 win over the Wolverines.

Dunn and Ball both have a ton of potential, but none of them can bring the intangibles to the offense that a Carlos Hyde can add when he’s back there. Hyde rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, but he really carried the offense in the second half the season.

Despite a strained knee early in the year, Hyde racked up 812 yards and 14 touchdowns over the final seven games of his junior season. He tallied four touchdowns against Nebraska, three against Illinois and two against Purdue, Indiana and Wisconsin. He was a monster over the final month of the season, when defenses were selling out to contain Braxton Miller in the backfield, and most importantly, he brought an element of toughness and tenacity that seemed to rub off on the rest of his teammates. The five guys up front seemed to feed off his energy and physicality, and I’m not sure Rod Smith is ready to bring that to the offense in 2013.

We may not know the fate of Carlos Hyde for a few more weeks, if not longer. In the meantime, we’re going to get a pretty serious look at Smith, Dunn and Ball, along with incoming freshmen Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson. The good news for Ohio State is that they will have a much better idea of what those guys can do by the start of the season. The bad news is they might have to rely on them in crunch time this season if No. 34 has played his last down for the Buckeyes.

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