Looking at Ohio State's 2014 Running Back Depth Chart
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes have a fairly storied history of running backs, and Carlos Hyde certainly added to that history this past season with 1,521 yards rushing while missing three entire games. Now that he is departing, there is a massive chasm at the tailback spot, and Ohio State will try to fill that hole by searching through a group of running backs who have never had more than 32 carries in a single season.
Though there is absolutely no experience in being a 20-carry per game tailback returning, there is still plenty of talent on hand. Ohio State is slated to have four tailbacks returning, and any one of them could be a 1,000-yard back with 200 carries. The key for Urban Meyer and running backs coach Stan Drayton, however, will be to find the guy who can rush for 1,200 yards with just 180 carries.
Along with the running backs listed below, the H-Backs (and prospective H-Backs) have again been listed, just as they were with the wide receiver depth chart that we did previously.
Ezekiel Elliott (So. 6-0 218)
Other than Braxton Miller, Elliott is the leading returning rusher for the Buckeyes. He rushed for 262 yards last season, averaging a team-high 8.7 yards per carry among the running backs. Over half of his yards (162) and nearly half of his 30 carries (14) came against Florida A&M, but he showed promise in more than just one game. He only carried the ball in seven contests last season, but he seemingly flew past Rod Smith on the depth chart. Given the season he had, and the potential that he has, it's difficult to put anybody else at the top of this list. Elliott is a home run hitter, but he can also do the little things that coaches love. Don't be shocked if you see a big year from Elliott in 2014.
Rod Smith (rSr. 6-3 232)
Smith started last season with a one-game suspension, and only had 12 carries after seven games. He finished with 117 yards rushing on 22 carries (5.3 ypc), which was eighth on the team, and behind quarterback Cardale Jones's 128 yards rushing. Everybody has seen Smith's potential in play, but it has yet to manifest itself into a consistent and productive football player. Smith's carries were down from each of the previous two seasons, which should be a concern for a backup running back considering how many blowouts the Buckeyes played in last season. This is the last chance for Rod Smith, if he is going to make an impact, it has to happen this season.
Warren Ball (rSo. 6-1 222)
Ball carried the football 13 times for 76 yards last season. He only touched the ball in four games, with three of them being the early non-conference games. In an offense with a dynamic running quarterback and an All-Big Ten tailback, there aren't a lot of carries left over for the backups. What type of running back the Buckeyes have this coming year is still a question mark, so touches for guys like Ball should increase early on. Ball will have a chance to make his mark, as most everybody else will as well. While there weren't many touches for him last season, with his abilities – Stan Drayton called him explosive and possibly the team's best open-field runner last spring – he needs to approach this season as if the running back job is wide open, because it is.
Bri'onte Dunn (rSo. 6-0 220)
Dunn did the rare thing and redshirted as a true sophomore this past season, so there is no doubt that he will be itching to get back out onto the field after getting the ball 25 times as a true freshman in 2012. While some may look at last season's redshirt as proof that Urban Meyer doesn't have a need for him, what they should really consider is if Meyer truly had no need or place for him, then he wouldn't have bothered redshirting him and keeping him around for an extra year. Clearly, Meyer still has plans for Dunn, and now it's up to Dunn to fulfill Meyer's plans. A hungry running back is a very dangerous thing for a defense, and by the time spring football rolls around, Bri'onte Dunn should be starving.
Dontre Wilson (So. 5-10, 180)
Wilson had 53 touches on offense for 460 yards (8.7 yards per touch) and three touchdowns this season, and that came in a backup role. Urban Meyer has repeatedly said “wait 'til next year” when it comes to Wilson, and he means it. Wilson will be stronger and bigger next year, and will be able to handle the ball in more ways. Meyer expects him to be able to carry the ball between the tackles next year as well.
Jalin Marshall (rFr. 5-11, 199)
Marshall suffered a concussion during fall camp, which set him back. He ended up redshirting because of the slow start. The talented depth at his position this season didn't help much either. He should be counted on plenty in 2014. He is strong and shifty, able to break tackles or avoid them altogether. He will be a difficult cover for any defender.
Curtis Samuel (Fr. 5-11, 186)
Samuel was a running back in high school, but considered by most to be a receiver in college. He rushed for over 1,000 yards this season and played in the Army All-American Bowl. He told the-Ozone that he will play both running back and receiver, which is another way to say that he'll probably be an H-Back once he gets his feet under him. It will be interesting to see if he begins his career as a running back or a receiver. Clocked at a 4.36, however, means that the coaches simply have to find a spot for him somewhere, and quickly.
Parris Campbell (Fr. 6-0, 184)
Like Curtis Samuel, Campbell was also a running back in high school, rushing for over 1,200 yards this past season. He ran a 4.41 at The Opening football camp last summer, so he has the speed that all coaches covet. Campbell is still young, and will get bigger. Like Samuel, he is also a possibility to play running back. If he is ultimately going to play running back, he will have to put some weight on, which he'll do no matter where he ends up. While Samuel is already enrolled at Ohio State, Campbell is not, and he may start out a bit behind everybody else when he does finally get to OSU in the summer.
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