This offseason has been quite a roller coaster ride for the Ohio State running backs. After the whole, “She ain’t give me no p**** so I hit her” scenario by Carlos Hyde, the running back position is now up for grabs.
It looked as if Hyde was bound to have a breakout year after many standout games at the end of the season in 2012. That vision is looking like it might not come true for the Bucks as he is suspended for at least the first three games of the year (granted the competition is nearly nonexistent). So that leaves the door open for some new guys, and some upperclassmen to take the job and run with it (no pun intended).
Lets take a closer look at what to expect from the running back position this fall…
A heavy dose of Rod Smith
Rod Smith was in and out of the lineup in the 2012 season, rotating with Carlos Hyde. As Jordan Hall went down with a leg injury, Smith started to see increased time on offense. But, as Hyde improved toward the end of the year, Rod’s up the middle game was not nearly needed as much.
This year, I would expect Rod to get significantly more time with the issues regarding Carlos Hyde. He looks like he is going to be the starter heading into opening day, and it is going to be his job to lose. In the past, Rod has had some serious problems holding onto the football. He is notorious for the ease at which he fumbles the ball. He only had 32 carries last year, and had 2 fumbles. Now, that may not seem like a lot of fumbles. But, let’s assume that an average running back carries the ball 20 times a game. If that back carries it 20 times a game, that means that rod would have lost 1.5 fumbles per game. When put into perspective, it is a major issue if he is the starting running back.
Can Jordan Hall stay healthy?
This is the question that every Buckeye fan has been asking. Jordan Hall has never seen significant minutes in a season because he has never been able to stay healthy. He is always the guy that people really want to see succeed because I believe he has the ability to make a major impact in this offense. But, the truth is, he is very injury prone and I have learned to lower my expectations for him.
With that said, if he manages to stay healthy, Jordan Hall will see a lot of time this year. He is in a spot with a lot of competition, but what he has over everybody else is age and experience. He may not be the best runner on the team, but Urban has stressed the importance of leadership this year, and Hall is definitely in a position to provide that. Before his injury last year, he carried the ball 40 times for 218 yards and a touchdown. If his body holds up, I would look to see a hungry Jordan Hall this season.
Competition between Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliot and Bri’onte Dunn
This is an intriguing spot for the Bucks this season. It has a high “unknown” factor but these are three guys that can all contribute this year.
Dontre Wilson is a fast, quick, elusive slot back who we could end up seeing catch a lot of passes to go along with his runs. He has the ability to line up along side Braxton at quarterback, but will most likely be used as a slot receiver/back. He reminds me of a little bit slower Percy Harvin (That may be a little nice), and that intrigues me as a fan.
Ezekiel Elliot is the other big time running back recruit that the Bucks landed this season. Contrary to Wilson, though, he is more of an all-purpose back who is capable of catching passes. Just yesterday he got his “Black Stripe” removed, meaning that the coaching staff has officially named him part of the team. That is a good sign with plenty of camp still left to go. I can see Elliot coming in a making a big difference in the future. It might not be this year that he explodes, but this kid definitely has a bright future and can offer some good competition to the backs right now.
Last but not least, we saw Bri’onte Dunn get a few carries last season, granted it was garbage time when he was getting those carries. Either way, he has shown that he has the ability to be on the field every couple of weeks. I think that he can challenge some of these younger guys at their spots if nothing else.
Good competition at the RB position will only make this group better. I want to see both of these frosh emerge as playmakers for the offense this year, but without a doubt they will make a difference in the coming years.
Finally, can we expect to see Carlos Hyde return to end of season form when he comes back?
I think the answer to this question is yes. Hyde and Braxton have a nice chemistry and I can see Hyde having another great year in the Big Ten. Braxton is bound to put up nice stats against non-conference teams, and entering league play I would expect to see a heavy commitment towards stopping number 5 first. With that, Hyde will inevitably get more opportunities to shine once he earns the starting job back.
Although it is all but determined that Hyde will play at some point this season, I wouldn’t mind seeing some competition for his spot by guys mentioned earlier. If the Bucks can have two-three dominant backs, it will only create more problems for the defenses that they face.
There will be competition for this spot throughout the first three games. Every back will have their chance to make a name for themselves with Hyde out and Urban is leaving the door open for each and every one of them.
I expect to see Rod Smith lead the charge for the Buckeyes during the first half of this season, but ultimately I expect to see Carlos Hyde come back at full strength and continue his outstanding play from last year.
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