Today’s Topic: Is the H-Back Changing Under Ryan Day?
Way back when Urban Meyer was at Utah, his Ute offenses were known for many things. Most people took note of quarterback Alex Smith, but in 2004, receivers Steve Savoy and Paris Warren combined for 50 rushing attempts and eight touchdowns.
At Florida in 2006, he expanded the receiver’s role in the running game with freshman Percy Harvin. As the Gators’ H-back for three seasons, Harvin amassed 1,852 yards rushing and 1,929 yards receiving.
He was the perfect weapon.
When Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State, the words “Percy Harvin role” were spoken by Ohio State media more than any phrase since “Tresselball.”
But it wasn’t just the media who were looking to find out who would flourish in that role, because Meyer was searching for that answer himself.
In 2012, the role was mostly held by Philly Brown and Jake Stoneburner, but they didn’t provide the running threat that Meyer liked. In 2013, he signed Dontre Wilson, who provided a bit of what Meyer wanted, but the Buckeyes still lacked an inside running threat from the position.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Meyer once again found the perfect H-back. After sharing the role with Braxton Miller in 2015, Curtis Samuel blossomed in 2016, rushing for 771 yards on 97 carries and catching 74 passes for 865 yards.
Samuel was as comfortable running between the tackles as he was running a route over the middle of the field.
In the two seasons since, the position was ably manned by Parris Campbell and KJ Hill, but the running was limited to jet sweeps, and mostly by Campbell.
Towards the end of last season, Demario McCall was also getting time at H-back, and he was able to switch from the slot to the backfield with ease, just as was the ideal for Meyer.
With Campbell leaving, it looked like McCall would step up a spot in the pecking order, but also bring the inside running game back to the H-backs.
That didn’t happen, however, because McCall was moved back to running back over the offseason. He will still be split out at times, especially when it comes to the options in a two-back set.
But as for the H-back position, it appears that it will continue to go away from the inside running game, and stick to a more receiver role with the jet sweeps sprinkled in.
This isn’t necessarily a change, however, as this has been how the position has operated basically every year but one.
The fact that McCall was moved back to running back, however, is telling in that the ability to have an inside running threat at the position isn’t as desirable for Day.
The H-backs will still carry the ball, but like last year, it will be on a speed sweep around the left or right end once or twice a game.
“I think of what we did last year is what we’re going to do this year,” said receivers coach Brian Hartline.
“It is a hybrid. It’s still a guy that we want to hand the ball off and get speed sweeps and get things going with. But with our offense, we’re able to move guys around pretty seamlessly and really, if you want the inside guy to go out, outside to go in like we did last year, it’s pretty easy for us to do. But it’s more of a slot receiver. You’re a receiver first and maybe a hand-off running back maybe second or third.”
So is the H-back changing under Ryan Day? Probably.
Will you notice? Probably not.