Depth Chartin' 2012: Offensive Backs

By Jason Priestas on February 10, 2012 at 2:30p
51 Comments
Braxton Miller captured the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year Award in 2011Stay healthy, young man.

For the second time in the last four years, Ohio State turned its offense over to a true freshman quarterback and although in each case the quarterback oozed talent, learning on the job at the FBS level comes with its ups and downs.

In 2008, when Terrelle Pryor took over for Todd Boeckman, he had Jim Tressel guiding him as a coach, a supremely talented running back in Beanie Wells, veteran wide receivers and a defense featuring several future NFL starters. The result: a 10-3 season that ended in the Fiesta Bowl.

Last season, Braxton Miller took over for Joe Bauserman in the fourth game of the season, but had a first year coach at the top, his two best running backs suspended to start the year, an inexperienced receiver corps and a bend-and-LOL-break defense. The result: the team's first seven-loss season since 1897.

Given the transitions and turmoil surrounding the team, it's no surprise that the offense struggled as much as it did in 2011. Thanks to the aforementioned suspensions to Boom Herron and Jordan Hall, the rushing attack was woeful, with Miller the quarterback leading all rushers.

Things were so bad in 2011 that fullback Zach Boren earned the team's Rex Kern award as outstanding back. Now Boren is a human wrecking ball and a fan favorite for plowing running lanes, but his last rushing attempt came in November 2010.

But as is the theme with any preview of the 2012 season, optimism running rampant in Columbus these days. Urban Meyer has completely reinvigorated the program and has assembled a staff that features a real quarterback coach in the form of Tom Herman. Stan Drayton has moved from coaching wide receivers to his more natural position as a running backs coach and both groups will benefit from the strength and conditioning program of Mickey Marotti.

We have an idea of how Urban Meyer will run his offense and how the position battles will go down, but with a new regime comes new opportunities (paging Rod Smith).

One thing I feel comfortable saying with a certainty is that Braxton Miller will be the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes when Miami rolls in to town for the opener. Meyer has barely been able to contain his glee at the prospect of coaching the dynamic sophomore and the only thing keeping him out of the starting spot will be injuries.

Departing
# POS Name Notes
14 QB Joe Bauserman Graduated
4 RB Jamaal Berry Kicked off team
33 FB David Durham Transfer
19 QB Taylor Graham Transfer
1 RB Boom Herron NFL-bound
Returning
# POS Name HT/WT YR
44 FB Zach Boren 6-0/252 SR
13 QB Kenny Guiton 6-2/195 R-JR
7 RB Jordan Hall 5-9/195 SR
49 FB Adam Homan 6-2/248 JR
34 RB Carlos Hyde 6-0/238 JR
5 QB Braxton Miller 6-3/210 SO
2 RB Rod Smith 6-3/230 R-SO
Incoming
POS Name HT/WT YR Rivals
RB Warren Ball 6-2/210 FR ★★
RB Br'onte Dunn 6-2/215 FR ★★
QB Cardale Jones 6-5/217 FR

As a true freshman, Miller started 10 games for the Buckeyes and really blossomed late in the year on his way to capturing the Big Ten's Thompson-Randle El Award as the league's freshman of the year. He finished 85/157 for 1,159 yards and 13 touchdowns to just four interceptions through the air and also led the team in rushing with 751 yards and seven touchdowns.

His first half against Nebraska was a thing of beauty before he left the game with an injury, he was part of a three-headed 100-yard rusher performance against the Hoosiers in which he set a school record for a quarterback with an 81-yard touchdown run and set career marks for passing completions, attempts, yards, and touchdowns on the way to racking up 335 yards of offense against the Wolverines in a very Troy Smith-like coming out party.

He is absolutely electric, finishing the long runs that Pryor only tempted us with and should flourish in Meyer's offense with its focus on easy reads and leveraging numbers.

But, oh, those injuries. Miller missed part of his junior and senior seasons in high school with various injuries and was knocked out of the Nebraska game, leading to a 2nd half of Bauserman throws into the stands and a gut-wrenching come-from-ahead loss. He took plenty of hits as a freshman, though, so you can't knock his toughness. He just has to avoid the type of injuries that will knock him out of games.

Should Miller get injured, Meyer will likely turn to redshirt junior Kenny Guiton. Guiton is not nearly as talented as Miller, but he's been in the program for a while and I have full confidence in Meyer and his staff to have Guiton prepared to play should Miller get hurt. Incoming freshman Cardale Jones has the frame (6-5/217) to trigger Tebow dreams for Meyer, so keep an eye on him as they may utilize him in a similar manner near the goal line (though with Braxton's shakes, that may not be needed).

The team will miss Boom Herron for his off the field leadership as much as it will for his on the field ability. Though he was suspended for the first six games of the season, he returned with a vengeance, sparking a three game winning streak against Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana in which he rushed for 114, 160 and 141 yards, respectively.

In the upset over the Badgers, he outplayed Wisconsin star Montee Ball, behind 33 punishing carries and the image of Herron standing on the field with tears streaming out of his eyes will not soon be forgotten by Buckeye fans that came to appreciate his rushing style that seemed to always produce positive yards.

He leaves Ohio State as the school's 10th-leading rusher with 2,869 career yards and should surface somewhere soon in the NFL.

Depth Chartin' 2012
01/06 - Defensive Line
01/13 - Linebackers
01/20 - Defensive Backs
01/27 - Offensive Line
02/03 - Receivers & Tight Ends
02/10 - Quarterbacks & Running Backs

Vying to inherit Boom's role as the team's primary rusher will be senior Jordan Hall, junior Carlos Hyde, redshirt sophomore Rod Smith and two very talented freshmen: Canton GlenOak's Bri'onte Dunn and Columbus DeSale's Warren Ball.

Hall would seem to be the best fit, given the personnel on hand, for Meyer's offense. He lacks high end speed and won't be mistaken for Percy Harvin anytime soon, but he's dependable, smart and busts his ass giving effort.

Though he was himself suspended to open the year, he wound up starting three games during Boom's prolonged suspension and finished with 408 yards on 100 carries including a gutty performance in his first game back, coming against the Hurricanes (14/87). Hall also served as the team's primary return guy, both on punts and kickoffs and he finished first on the team and second in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards.

Hyde started three games in 2011, finishing 3rd on the team with 577 yards and six touchdowns on 106 carries. His average of 5.44 yards-per-carry was good enough to lead the team and the six rushing touchdowns were second-most on the roster. 

When Boom and Hall were both out against Akron for the opener, Hyde finished with 93 yards on 19 carries and followed it up with 18 rushes for 74 yards and a touchdown the next week against Toledo. He exploded for a 63-yard touchdown in the first half in Lincoln (finishing with 104 yards on 13 attempts that night) and topped 100 again against Indiana with a 15 carry, 105-yard performance. 

A fan favorite, for his output in limited opportunities, Hyde may have set himself back by taking playing time grievances to Twitter, but with the new staff comes somewhat of a clean slate, so expect him to compete for the starting job.

You may remember Rod Smith as the guy that elicited the "OMG, LIKE JIM BROWN BUT BETTER!!1!" praise coming out of fall camp last season. While he certainly has the talent, he needs to get his head right and cut down on the fumbles. Compounding his problems is that he missed the team's flight to the Gator Bowl and that was after Urban had already taken the job, so he has one huge strike against him already.

Dunn and Ball, the two hyped freshman should be in the mix and with a new staff comes a suspension of loyalty. If either one of them is the best choice at running back, they will play.

Zach Boren and Adam Homan, the team's top two fullbacks are both back and thought there's been talk of utilizing Boren as an H-back in Meyer's offense, we'll have to see what shakes out. One thing is almost guaranteed: Boren won't repeat as the team's Kern Award winner.

51 Comments

Comments

Matt's picture

There's no doubt that Hall has made some plays for the Buckeyes, but I really don't think he is the player that we are looking for to fit Meyer's offense.  I don't think he ever had high end speed, or a significant burst of acceleration.  He has good shiftiness and I like his low center of gravity.  Ever since the injury on the Wisky KO return, however, I thought Hall played slow and uninspired.  I think Hyde is the answer at RB in Meyer's offense; he is more of a Saine style runner who can hit a hole fast and explode for big yardage, but struggles with his vision and fiting through the kinds of tight spaces that Boom thrived in.  Fortunately, our new spread/zone blocking schemes should open up just the kind of space that will make Hyde deadly.  I look for Hyde to be out there next to Braxton in the shotgun a great deal, with Hall making appearances more in the slot and in motion.  But I don't think Urban is head over heels for Hall; I think he'd prefer to take his chances with a Philly Brown type of speedster as a small-back rusher -- someone who actually has elite speed.

Squirrel Master's picture

I think Verlon Reed could be an unknown in this offense. He played QB in high school, he is fast and probably knows spread reads pretty well. That could be something that will come about.

I don't see Hall as the Harvin type of player. Nor do I see Hyde. Dunn could become that type of player with the right conditioning. Ball maybe but I don't know much about him really. I think it will be one of the quicker WR that will play that role til Marshall shows up.

I do see Urban utilizing Hall and Hyde somehow though. I don't see Herman and Meyer not putting together plays that maximizes the current talent. We keep talking about the next Harvin or Rainey but it would not surprise me to see Urban create a masterful role for our RBs. The one thing I know will be different is the blocking scheme. I love how Ross breaks down the block scheme for these power read plays. Can you imagine if they can get those plays to work with a power runner such as Hyde or Dunn? its going to be legendary!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Maestro's picture

Agree that there will be some tinkering with positions.  Philly Brown played a lot of RB in high school.  Reed is certainly elusive and is comfortable being in the backfield.  

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SouthBayBuckeye's picture

I don't think he's big enough for that in CFB.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Squirrel Master's picture

I don't think big enough is what you mean. Rainey and Harvin are not very big and they did excellent at that position. Harvin is 6'0'' and about 190. Reed is basically that same size. Brown a bit smaller. We are talking about that position of back, not a straight up RB.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Buckeyejason's picture

Harvin wishes he was 6'0". He's 5,'10".

BUCKEYES BABY!

Squirrel Master's picture

Officially listed on NFL.com is 5'11'' based on combine results. I know he was listed at Florida at 6'0''. but doesn't matter because that proves the point don't need to be big to play that role in the offense.

 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

I know Harvin isn't "big" either. But Brown has already missed significant time due to injury. As a result, I just don't see him anywhere but split out wide, where he's less liekly to take hits.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Buckeyejason's picture

Absolutely no way Dunn becomes a Harvin type..he's a pure physical power runner. Ball Is closer to that mold than Dunn if anything.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Squirrel Master's picture

Scouts.com says he has surprising speed for a big back and its his vision, patience and ability to break tackles that makes him elite.

If he already has good speed and this staff can work with him for that extra burst, he would be the running back that Urban really wanted in Florida to run the Power read. The biggest mistake with Bollfuks offense was trying to play a read option with running backs who are not very good reading the play. No matter how good a QB would be at reading a play, the RB has to be able to do that as well. If Dunn is that good at reading plays then he would be the perfect fit for a TRUE power read spread. I am not saying Dunn resembles Harvin by no stretch of the imagination. I am saying that the position can be utilized with Dunn if and when he can get faster. This is what is so fascinating about what is going on here. Oregon has the little scat backs and other spreads use option where quick scat backs are needed. When you are running it down the middle, it doesn't matter how big you are. It matters if you can follow the read and make the play. We all know Braxton is getting better at that at the QB spot. Need a RB or WR that can stand next to him and read the play from that position just as well. Fast does help but its not only running fast that makes this offense work.

edit: Ball is just as big and runs more upright than Dunn. I don't think you are correct on that one! Plus I have seen the videos of Dunn. He can bust them!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

SPreston2001's picture

Dunn and Harvin should never be mentioned in the same sentence lol. Honestly that "Harvin" type of player isnt on our team yet. We may have a few that can somewhat immitate Harvin, but theres not one person on our squad who can do what Harvin did/does....

You cant coach speed...

William's picture

Corey Brown ran a 10.2-10.3 100, Devin Smith was around the 10.5 region. We have plenty of speed. Meyer himself said he doesn't really know that much yet, because he hasn't seen them up close.

Buckeyejason's picture

We must be watching different tape or have different vision or something because the videos that I have watched of Ball show him juking defenders out alot and shows a lot of agility for his size..also a good pass catcher.

Dunns video on the other hand is a lot of straight north/south down hill power running..breaking through the line with defenders bouncing off of him.

BUCKEYES BABY!

William's picture

Agreed. Honestly I think Ball will do more at OSU than Dunn.

Buckeyejason's picture

Possibly, he seems more versitile than Dunn. I do think however that they will make an outstanding running back tandom for at least 2 seasons together.

BUCKEYES BABY!

William's picture

He's faster, has better vision, and is a much better receiver than Dunn. I actually think Dunn could get moved to H-back because he's so big, I could see him killing guys on blocks. Besides next year we'll most likely be signing Derrick Green, who's 6'0 215 and runs in the upper 4.3s.

Rather_Be_Golfing's picture

You guys are all nutz.  Dunn is a not moving to H-Back.  Dude is a bitch of a runner.  And he actually played against great teams in NE Ohio, where that is all people do is play and watch football in High School.  It's a religion.

 

Dunn will do great things at OSU.  He is a quicker version of Eddie George.  You will hear a lot from him.  Plus, he is a good kid.  Nothing against the other 'backs' coming in but Dunn is and will be a beast at OSU.

 

 

William's picture

Quicker? He's slower than Eddie George by a mile. Scouts have even said that if Dunn keeps growing a move to fullback or H-back would be very likely. He's too big and slow in my opinion. Look at his tape compared to Ball's.

Eddie George ran a 4.47 40.

Bri'onte Dunn ran a 4.59 40.

George was obviously quicker, and faster.

Rather_Be_Golfing's picture

See, I don't have to look at tape.  I have seen the guy play live.  And he is faster and quicker on the field.  If Ball is better than him, that is great news for the Buckeyes.  Not sure we should be arguing here, it is all good.  

I have news for you.  He would not be a Buckeye if he were to move to Full Back.  That is not in his plans.  Not sure what Scouts you have heard from.  I know people up in NE Ohio that know his deal personally.  

All right.  I am off to see us beat up on Sparty.  Take care William and Go Bucks.

Maestro's picture

I thought Durham was transferring to Pitt?

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spqr2008's picture

I remember reading an article from a Pittsburg newspaper talking about he wouldn't transfer because his injury was bad enough to end his football career

Maestro's picture

That's a shame.

vacuuming sucks

spqr2008's picture

makes me want to redshirt Adam homan, just to have someone at fullback/h-back in case we don't get one next year.  although heuerman's bro is a smallish tight end, who would work well as an H-back

Maestro's picture

Nick Vannett is there too.

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Alex's picture

I think you are right Maestro...don't remember hearing anything about an injury...can anyone find a link if I am wrong? Fixed in the article to transfer now

bassplayer7770's picture

First and foremost, I agree with the caption of the photo.  If Braxton goes down, it will make me cringe.  However, I'm sure Coaches Herman and Meyer will have Guiton and Jones as ready as they can possibly be to compete.

BuddhaBuck's picture

With the unproven depth at WR, maybe Cardale Jones will play himself onto the field as a WR... and consequently, open the door for gadget plays.

One of the recruiting sites had him as a 4.55 guy, which, combined with a 6'5" frame would make him quite the target.

..... oh, and Jason, all of your analysis is pending the decision from a guy named Stefon Diggs... right?

Don't text while driving.

Maestro's picture

Jones is needed at QB.  I don't think he has the quicks to play WR anyhow.

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vitaminB's picture

I can't find a recruiting video of him running the ball at all.  Which has me a little worried.

Jason Priestas's picture

Absolutely. Can't count the chickens until they hatch.

Buckeyejason's picture

If Jones was moved to WR, that would only Leave us with 2 scholly QB's on the roster for next season. That would be a dumb move, no disrespect.

BUCKEYES BABY!

BuddhaBuck's picture

He'd still be the third QB on the roster... but he could actually contribute vs. holding a clip-board.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but just because a guy is listed at QB doesn't mean he can't play in other capacities... Right?

Don't text while driving.

Maestro's picture

In theory, I just don't see him being able to split time.  

The 3rd QB is going to get a bunch of reps in practice still.  Whether that is running the other team's offense or being game ready.  Jones is an intriuging QB prospect and at least for 2012 I would expect them to really challenge him to see if he could be Braxton's back up in the future.

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TheHumbleBuckeye's picture

Jones is already up to 225 lbs... could easily be up to 235 by the start of the season.... He will definitely be utilized on short yardage plays a la Tebow 2006. He simply has more power than Braxton, and there's no sense in making Braxton take more hits than are necessary. Jones has an extremely under-rated arm too. If you watch his highlight videos, you'll see he routinely chucks the ball 50+ yards downfield effortlessly, even without properly planting his feet and getting his body behind the throw. Those highlights were from his senior year at Glenville (2010) too, and he's no doubt stronger by now. We'll probably see Jones on some 3rd and 2 plays faking the QB iso and stepping back to launch it down field to Devin Smith. On measurables alone, Jones has the potential to be a phenom, and he seems like a much more polished passer than Cam or Terrelle at this same stage in their development. Always checks down a 2nd, 3rd, and even a 4th receiver before he decides to run. Needs a little work on mechanics and consistency though. His upside is off the charts.

SLVRBLLTS's picture

Can I dismiss what I'm hearing about Rod Smith on the way out as just rumors?

"Because we couldn't go for three"

Alex's picture

haven't heard that

Jason Priestas's picture

Ohio State is still hot after Smith's brother, Jaylon, so I think he remains on the team for now.

Buckeyejason's picture

I think Smith is done here with Ball and Dunn coming in. Smith hasn't exactly played his cards right this year both on the field and off.

BUCKEYES BABY!

BTwrestle04's picture

I disgaree completely. Although I am not familiar with his off-the-field transgressions, he has a major upside as he was once touted as a Beanie Wells type back. I was at both games in which he had stupid fumbles. He never saw the field again, but there must have been something in practice that showed he at least deserved some snaps to get into the rotation. He just needs some ball security. Beanie had some fumble issues in his early years as well, remember.

Buckeyejason's picture

Yeah yeah I hear it all the time beanie fumbled Eddie fumbled..this kid is neither of those guys. Look, he might work out and end up really good. I'm just sayin what I think will happen. I tend to sense these sort of things in some weird psychic way lol.

BUCKEYES BABY!

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

I'm sure if he fumbles, Urban will know and less/zero playing time will result. Seniority means nothing to him, the best guys will play.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

FLAMikey's picture

You need to have thunder and lightning in Meyer's offense. TimmyT was the thunder, and without him, the Gator's offense sputtered. There will be a need for backs like Hyde who can pound the rock.

gravey's picture

"The team will miss Boom Herron for his off the field leadership"

I doubt this...perhaps his locker room leadership, but I'll be happy not to see any sort of this variety of "in the tat parlor" leadership for another couple of decades.

Jason Priestas's picture

I see your point, but notice I didn't say that the fans would miss Herron's leadership. A lot of fans may not be saddened to see him move on, but that doesn't mean he wasn't an effective leader of the team.

I personally believe that autographs-for-merch hookups were widespread and accepted across elite FBS programs until this wakeup call in Columbus. I'd go so far as to say that many of his teammates still don't believe what Herron did should constitute a violation.

Outside of this transgression and taking a Troy Smith handshake from DiGeronimo, Boom was a model citizen in Columbus. He improved every year on the field, was never previously suspended for academic issues, geting arrested or a "violation of team rules" and to top it off, he graduated in December.

Leaders of all stripes make bad decisions and this was a 21 year-old leader's bad decision.

Boom's like a kid, you can be upset with them, but you can't hate on them.

 

 

 

nickma71's picture

Just to keep things in perspective, Jerry Rice was "only" a 4.55 guy.

tampa buckeye's picture

A 40 time means nothing.  How fast are you with the ball in your hands?

 Can you run over a guy and fall forward?

 Can you make people miss?  

That is how you win games not running in spandex without a ball.  

nickma71's picture

That was pretty much my point. A great many receivers are faster than him. Think they will measure up? A 40 time does mean something. Want to line up Kosar and Pryor in a sprint?

Frito Bandito's picture

This situation reminds me of the old joke about two guys seeing a bear in  the woods.  One worries about out-running the bear.  The other knows he only has to out-run the other guy.

This 'thin' stable of running backs includes 4 big powerful guys any team would want and a smaller guy with good hands, decent speed and lots of experience.  Power, speed, vision, agility and hands are what Meyer needs and I think he has them all.  Why not use them all in situations appropriate to their individual skills?  No more little guys up the middle.  No more 5-star RBs playing LB.  Urban and Herman will have big guys to run up the middle, speedier guys to attack the edge, and pass-catching runners in the slot.  And our QB is a pretty good rusher in his own right.

And that says nothing about speedsters like Corey Brown and Devin Smith -- even Armani Reeves -- who could get some touches if we need even more speed outside the tackles. 

I hope we see them all run this Fall.  This is clean-slate do-over time.  That can be great for these young backs and is definitely great for the new staff. 

 

 

When in doubt, punt.

nickma71's picture

Any word on Rod Smith playing linebacker?

bassplayer7770's picture

I'm pretty sure it was before the bowl game when I heard Rod was back with the RBs full-time, and I expect he will stay there.  They can work on his fumbling issue, so I'm not concerned.

AGL's picture

Was a rumor for a while but just can not see it.  With who TOSU has returning,  including Crowell,  whom I hope has been cleared to play after injury,  and the incomming highly regarded recruits @ the LB position.  I think Smith played some lb  in h.s.  but he is a running back.  I really hope Smith plays up to his potential !  Also hoping Crowell has an impact,  he is from maryland I believe and with coach Edsall recruiting the home state hard I wonder if he may transfer.