Curtis Samuel Progressing, Wants to Be Another Playmaker for the Offense
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If a freshman running back is going to find a role in the Buckeye backfield this season, he will need to show that he can make enough plays in practice to warrant snaps during the season. On Saturday, freshman tailback Curtis Samuel did exactly that.
In front of 2,500 students, Samuel was the first running back off the bench behind starter Ezekiel Elliott as the offense scrimmaged against the defense. On a few occasions, he showed the speed and quickness while running to the edge that made him a much-coveted five-star prospect in the 2014 class.
Photo by Dan Harker
It was with the first-team offense against the first-team defense, however, where Samuel really made his mark. Taking a handoff from quarterback Cardale Jones, Samuel ran straight up the middle, slipping between defensive tackles Michael Bennett and Adolphus Washington before splitting through the rest of the defense which could only watch him run by.
It was a 50-yard touchdown run for Samuel, and while it didn't require any fancy moves, it certainly displayed the speed that Urban Meyer and running backs coach Stan Drayton have talked about since they were able to sign him back in February.
This was not the first time that Samuel has shined in practice, however, nor is it the first time he has reached the endzone from distance. While maybe not routine, big plays have not exactly been a rarity either. But he is not just a speed back, as middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan will tell you after being popped by the rookie tailback in a head-on collision himself this spring.
Samuel doesn't want to be a one-dimensional tailback for the Buckeyes, and neither do his coaches. He wants to help in as many ways as possible, which is also why he was at punt returner on Saturday as well.
While it has been an eventful spring for Samuel, it has not come without its challenges. After tweaking his hamstring in the very first practice, he has missed almost as many practices as he has made. The coaches have been patient with him because they see what he is capable of, and what he did on Saturday is really nothing new.
"Yeah, ever since I've gotten healthy I've been doing things like this," he told the-Ozone after the scrimmage.
"The great trainers have been pushing me to get better and get healthy. The coaches have forced me and told me to make sure that I get healthy. Coming out here I just wanted to execute."
With continued execution like that, the Ohio State offense will certainly be able to find a spot for Samuel. Right now, however, he is still just trying to find himself.
"I think I've had four practices since I've come back," he said. "I think I'm progressing from the first time I practiced. I'm getting better. My next level is to just keep progressing every practice."
While Saturday's scrimmage saw every active running back get reps with the first team, it has to say something that Samuel was the first tailback off the bench. At the moment, however, he is just trying to earn the coaches' trust that he can handle whatever it is they put in front of him.
"For me, just going out there and eliminating mistakes and executing is huge," he said. "As long as I keep doing that, I can just continue to build my relationship up with the coaches."
It's clear that Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have plans for Samuel. They would be foolish not to find a way to use his speed. But how quickly a freshman plays is rarely up to the coaches, as it's generally up to the freshman. If a player isn't ready to see the field, then speed, power, or vision don't really matter.
This spring, Samuel is hoping that he has shown enough in his limited reps to prove to his coaches that he is ready to see the field, and that he does in fact matter.
"I can give the team another player that can go out there and execute," he said. "Just go out there and make plays. That's what I want to do for my team."
And really, that's all his coaches will be asking of him as well.
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