Run (We're Four Natural Disasters)

By Johnny Ginter on July 14, 2011 at 1:00p
Apologies to Gnarls Barkley

In a good way though!

One of the things I'm most looking forward to this season is seeing how the running back position shakes out with Boom Herron sipping martinis in C-Deck. Conventional wisdom has been saying that OSU has an utter embarrassment of riches at tailback, and that any one of Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith, or Jordan Hall could step up to the mic and be the Brian Johnson to Boom's Bon Scott.

Of course, as is my wont, the first paragraph of the story is to introduce an accepted premise, while the second paragraph tears it down to make a dissimilar case. Two things to  keep in mind before I continue, however. First, I think all four of those guys are extremely talented and have the potential to be amazing. Second, add the word "eventually" to the tail end of that statement.

Because there's this thing about being a running back, something that is not easy to attain and something that I think Boom Herron exemplifies to a tee: consistency. Boom knows better than anyone how difficult consistency is to come by. Boom was given 20 or more rushes five times last year. Against Arkansas, Iowa, and Illinois, he averaged a pretty terrible 3.73 yards per carry for a total of 251 yards. But against Penn State and Michigan, he averaged 8.5 yards per carry for a total of 365 yards.

Point is, without a proven running threat at QB and a deceptively good WR corps, Ohio State needs a starting running back with the ability to bring consistency from day one.

So today I want to look at the resumes of the guys looking to become the feature back for at least the first five games of the 2011 Ohio State football season, and who I feel has the ability and experience to be the Back In Black to Boom Herron's Highway to Hell.

One caveat before I get started: none of these guys have any real prime time experience, so much of this is a projection based on how they looked given limited playing time. It isn't scientific, but it's all we've got.

First up is a guy who has actually been rumored to be part of a position change, and that is Jordan Hall. There have been whispers that Hall will be moving to wide receiver to supplement a pretty weak WR corps, and given his overall athleticism this may turn out to be a great idea. Another reason why it might turn out to be a great idea is because I think Hall is somewhat overrated in the minds of OSU fans as an RB. In his playing time he will occasionally break off an 8-10 yard run, but then have little to show for the other three or four handoffs he's been given, averaging just 4.35 yard per carry last year on 37 attempts. He just doesn't have the burst or lateral quickness to make the kind of jaw dropping runs people might be hoping for out of an OSU RB.

One guy who does have that burst is Rod Smith. Since he began practices just a short time ago, he has been turning heads with an outstanding combination of speed and power. His balance is incredible for a guy who has to be at least 6 foot 2, and he when he runs he reminds me of an Adrian Peterson-type back. Still... he's a true (ed- I'm dumb) freshman with zero in-game experience. Any other year, I'd say get him carries early and often to see what he can do. Not this year.

If Jordan Hall is overrated, Carlos Hyde might be underrated. Hyde is the prototypical "big man" RB, but interestingly enough he was found splitting out wide as a receiver during spring practice, and holding his own. I think he's far more athletic than people give him credit for, and in limited playing time last year he was consistent enough, going 5 rushes/32 yards/6.4 ypc against Eastern Michigan, 9/48/5.3 against Indiana, and 5/21/4.2 against Purdue. Not brilliant, but I think it's a mistake to count this guy out of the mix.

Jaamal Berry has the "wow" factor going for him, and statistically at least, he's head and shoulders above anyone right now. Let me put it this way: Jordan Hall had 5 more carries than Berry did last year, but 105 fewer rushing yards. 67 of his 266 yards last year were on account of a late game TD run against Eastern Michigan, but that kind of speed combined with his ability to change direction has proven him to be the kind of player we had hoped Mo Wells would have been. Add this to his ability to return kickoffs (which helped make OSU the best kickoff return team in the Big Ten last year), and I think you have the makings of a guy who can be a featured back.

It's unlikely that either Hyde, Berry, Hall, or Smith will be taking the reigns from day one. Luke Fickell has an imperative to find what works best, and quickly, so unless one of those four can establish themselves as head and shoulders above the rest during fall camp, expect to see all of them in the backfield at some point. To add to that point, depending on who the primary RB is, any one of these guys would provide OSU with an excellent change of pace back.

Still, if we're talking about guys who I feel absolutely need to be seeing time on the field? It's Jaamal Berry. Berry's speed and versatility make him a terrific weapon at the disposal of an inexperienced QB; if Hall figures to be more of a receiver than a rusher, having both him and Berry on the field would make for endless possibilities in the rushing and passing game.

Ultimately the goal of the Ohio State offensive plan is going to have to be finding the personnel that can afford the new QB the maximum amount of comfort and security in both the running game and passing game. When Boom Herron comes back, he'll be the guy, but until then, I believe Fickell, Bollman, and company will do whoever the QB is a great service by valuing versatility and consistent production over an idealized version of the traditional OSU running back.


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Matt's picture

Declined to mention that Hyde had the fastest 40 yd dash time (4.42) of any RB on the team, which is saying a lot for a guy carrying around 235 pounds.  Still remains to be seen whether he can translate that straight-line speed into rushing yards, however.

Johnny Ginter's picture

truthfully i put very little stock in OSU 40 times, but yeah, he is much more athletic than a typical big man change of pace RB that i think people would like to categorize him as (he's still pretty damn big)

Matt's picture

Oh I agree with the fake OSU 40 times, I hear an OSU 4.42 and I think 4.5 at best, but it still was surprising to me from a comparative point of view that Hyde beat out Berry in fake OSU 40 times.  It didn't surprise me so much that he beat Hall; I've never thought that Hall has top-end speed (too many "gritty" and "nose for the ball" and "blue collar" and "lunch pail" (read: white boy) punters tracked him down from behind on punt returns last year).

Irricoir's picture

Damn Matt, I am obviously white 240 and been clocked at 4.59 and 4.62. I would like to think my speed for size is pretty good. Why you hating on the white man bra? /jest

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

osujake9's picture

Where did you play?

Irricoir's picture

I wasn't talented enough coming out of high school, nor physicaly gifted enough to play anywhere. My size and speed started developing after my senior season of wrestling, when I no longer had to starve myself to make weight. I started preparing for the USMC and fitness became a lifestyle for me. I played in an 8 man league at RB until our LB got hurt and switched to that position. I always wondered if I had the potential to play in college at the age of 23 but I certainly did not at the age the kids on our team are. - Bauserman.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

yoderdame's picture

Good article and it's a great situation to be in as opposed to the Lydell Ross years. Smith is still young but he'll be a RS freshman, not a true freshman, right? No live game experience still but at least he's been in the program for a year now. I'm probably most excited about seeing what he can do this year.

Johnny Ginter's picture

aaaa you're right, i honestly don't even know why i typed that because i was specifically thinking of him standing out in pre-sugar bowl practices. thanks for the heads up

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Lydell "see you on Sundays" Ross? I always caleld him Leslie.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Jason Priestas's picture

We used to call him "Diana"

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

that's  a good one.


we used to run in to him at Miani's, and just give him s(tuff). that guy was a colossal prick.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

btalbert25's picture

I really liked Hyde and Berry last year.  Sure it was in mop up time but they looked pretty darn good.  I am looking forward to seeing Smith on the field as well.  I've been hearing a lot of great things about him for what seems like a really long time, can't wait to see him on the field. 

I don't dislike Hall, but I definitely agree with your assessment.  I've always been left thinking, what's the big deal about this guy?  I don't think he's horrible or anything, but think he probably would be better served catching passes, and the team would be better.  When I think of the RB I want in the backfield, I want the guy that every time he touches the ball can make a big play.  I don't think Hall gives this team that option.  Hyde and Berry, in my opinion, do. 


yrro's picture

The things Hall does well:

a) He showed the best vision of any of the running backs last year.

b) He has incredible balance, as evidenced by a couple of his ridiculous punt returns.

c) He has great hands for a back.

All that said, he has nowhere close to the raw acceleration of Berry or the power of Hyde or Smith. Still, it's very nice watching a guy who manages to hit the hole when it doesn't end up right in front of him.

RBuck's picture

I'd like to see a Smith/Berry combo. Rod wears 'em down, Jaamal cleans 'em up. Actually it'll probably be the one who hangs on to the ball the most.

Long live the southend.

Maestro's picture

I think Hall will be a solid slot guy, and I would love to see Hyde get the bulk of the carries.

vacuuming sucks

Brady's picture

Good stuff Johnny.  All of these guys are going to get a shot this year.  I have a feeling the offense is going to be almost strictly ground based early in the season so there will be plenty of carries to go around.  I do hope that the Hall-to-WR rumors are true.  He is a talented player but I think the other guys should get the majority of the carries.  Their potential is through the roof and I think we already know what we have in Hall.


omahabeef1337's picture

So I know this would probably neglected here because we haven't gotten to see hardly any of it from these guys, but with a young or just inexerpeicend QB playing, blocking ability will heavily impact playing time.

BuddhaBuck's picture

It'd be nice to see Hall/Berry get a chance to do their best Harvin/Demps impression. I hate using the (U)FU analogy, but please put them in space and let them create.

With all the RB talent coming into town over the next couple years (Ball, Dunn, Derrick Green), this should be a well-stocked position for quite some time..


Don't text while driving.

buckeyedude's picture

I know I'm probably in the minority, but put me in the Hyde Camp. And it has noting to do with his fake 40 times. I think the dude could be a real bruiser. I like guys that run over DBs, as opposed to trying to dink 'em like a one-on-one with the goalie.



Buckeye in Athens's picture

This is going to be my favorite position battle over the fall camp and early year, just because each guy is capable and I'd be happy with whichever one gets the nod. I don't feel that way about quarterback race, in comparison. 

It's hard to say who I'd like to see, because I don't believe any of them have been given enough opportunity to prove themselves. As I've said extensively before, I really like the Hall-slot move and hope it sticks. As far as the other three, I remember reports from spring practice that said Hyde was out of shape and looked slow in the drills, while Berry looked amazing all around (i.e. more than a change of pace guy) and Rod certainly looked the part of a starter. Part of me wants to see Berry be the first one out of the gate to get carries, simply because he's looked phenomenal in limited action and probably wonders why he didn't get more carries last year even. But if either Hyde or Smith beats him out, then yeah, go with him - I see seniority being less of a factor for Fickell. I do however, have great hopes for all of them. If Wisconsin was all proud of their Clay-White-Ball combo, then our Berry-Smith-Hyde-(Boom) combo will blow them away. 

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Smith - Berry - Hyde would be my pick for the depth chart. Might as well let Miller and Smith familiar with one another from the start, cause that will most likely be the starting backfield over the next few seasons barring abnormal circumstances. Berry will definately be a good change of pace guy to Smith's bruising running style.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Nappy's picture

It may not matter who starts if the O-line cant open holes for the backs.  If thats the case it'd be interesting to see if the staff elects to give the majority of the carries to Smith who is seemingly more fit to run between the tackles or Berry who has more outside speed.  And Omaha brings up a good point about pass protection, although with the receiving corps being green, it's doubtful we take a lot of shots downfield meaning the quick and short passes that require less time to complete requires less guys staying in to block.

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

That may be all the more reason for Fickell to take more shots down the field. Because other teams won't expect it...

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Nappy's picture

Im sure they'll take their obligatory shots downfield to keep defenses from stacking the box but the running game is going to be the bread and butter. IF the O-line can block.  If not and defenses can get pressure and slow down the run game with the front 7, it may be a long 5 2 games until Adams, Posey and the rest are back. 

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Irricoir's picture

What's so great about Hyde? His 40? Pfftt.. I watched him play last year and wasn't left with any lasting impressions other than butter fingers. Didn't he fumble twice in very limited carries last year? I might be mistaken but if Fickell is like most coaches, especially Tressell, Hyde will have to protect the football better. Berry ran for those yards in trash time, true, and they were against less than stellar teams, but in clean up what does OSU do? Run the football. See Arkansas and any other game we had a big lead. All college teams are smart enough to read those tendencies. They knew the Buckeyes would be running with a Rb or Qb and still failed to stop Berry.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Riggins's picture

It has been amazing to see all the talent the Buckeyes have been able to recruit at the RB position in recent years.  It's almost as if these guys forgot that only one of them would be on the field at a time.  Credit the coaching staff's recruiting pitches, I suppose.  That is not to say I wouldn't have gladly rode the pine at Ohio State as the third string long snapper just to have the experience.  I just know many kids are looking for playing time when picking a school.

I'm not worried about the RB position.  There is talent there. Someone (likely two) will emerge and carry the offense until Miller gets comfortable.  Or they'll carry it the entire year if our more "seasoned" QB starts.  If I had to guess at this point, I'd say a Berry-Smith tandem with JHall on the outside catching a lot of balls to stabilize the lack of proven WR options.  I am basing the Smith projection on nothing but hype from bowl practice (as most are) and I've been campaigning for Berry to get more touches since he got on to campus. Hyde will always intrigue me.  I shudder to think what Wisconsin could do with a bruiser like him. 

JakeBuckeye's picture

Rod Smith<3 until Boom comes back and has a legendary comeback performance against Nebraska.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

I like the way you think. Boom for >250 vs. Nebraska. Heard it here first. 

iball's picture

Jamaal Berry deserves a big pat on the back. After the legal and injury troubles I really believed his time in c'bus would be short. The kids done nothing but prove me wrong. I love all our guys but I'm pulling for JB. I think his future is extremely bright. Nice job Jamaal.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

Johnny Ginter's picture

jaamal berry kind of makes me mad because the two consecutive a's in his name come before the m instead of after, which is just crazy town looney tunes

BuckeyeSki's picture


Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Nappy's picture

whaat? thaat maakes no sense!

Obviously Im insanely bored at work at 5pm cant get here soon enough. No Caption Contest today?

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Johnny Ginter's picture

maybe you should listen to the dubcast fifty more times

Denny's picture

So you're saying that I shouldn't have sent you that pet sheep?


Johnny Ginter's picture

yeah that was a baad idea

Bucks's picture

^ Ha. Friday is always entertaining on here.