Brandon Saine's Rise

By Chad Peltier on June 28, 2012 at 6:00p

Following the 2009 season, everything looked rosy for Brandon Saine. 

One of half of the Boom and Zoom tailback tandem, Saine was the speed back, with a reputed 4.25 40 time (that's faster than Ted Ginn's, for those of you keeping track), to Boom's power back. 

"Team Zoom" was a formidable force on this and other websites, with fairly lofty expectations for his senior season (we seem to be sold out of Team Zoom t-shirts). He had just capped off a season in which he had 739 yards on the ground with an additional 224 receiving and was finally looking like he would meet expectations that others had after his dominating high school career. Who could forget he and Boom's 2009 Iowa game

Compared to Reggie Bush coming out of high school, Saine was a big-time, consensus 4* recruit, known as a do it all kind of mutli-purpose speed back, with fantastic hands, a quick burst and first step, and the ability to shed tacklers going north-south. 

The set up for his rise and redemption story was perfect: a top-5 runningback prospect out of high school has an impressive, if limited freshman year, followed by an injury-plagued sophomore year (with the expected frustration and transfer rumors), and is capped off by dominating junior and senior years. Sports writers and game commentators would have mentioned the story in almost every game and after every 100-yard rushing performance. 

Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. Saine saw his number of carries get cut in half from 2009 as he slowly became the 1B to Herron's 1A. Fans become frustrated as Saine doesn't appear to get to the edge or wiggle quickly enough. 

More than anything, it looked like he wasn't being used in ways that maximized his talents as a north-south runner and a pass catcher (it's hard when you're running Dave after Dave all day). The coaches weren't asking Cam Heyward to play quarterback, so why ask Saine to make lightening cuts all day? Better to maximize his potential on plays like this at :34 seconds in. 

Yet that's not the end of Saine's story, as he goes on to be an undrafted free-agent by the Packers in 2011 - pulled from the pratice squad halfway through the season. He goes on to rush and receive for 69 yards each, which isn't quite otherworldly, but nonetheless impressive for a guy who only appeared in 8 games after going undrafted. 

Zoom showed enough promise in his limited action in 2011 that Packers blogs and messageboards are getting excited about Saine for next season. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has this to say:

When asked about the depth of the running back position, McCarthy talked about James Starks and Alex Green, but one comment about Brandon Saine in particular stood out.

"Brandon (Saine) is so consistent, probably the most consistent guy we have back there," said McCarthy.

It's important to note that McCarthy's praise for Saine was unsolicited. He wasn't asked specifically about Saine but rather about the running backs as a whole. 

Johnny Knoxville with a pufferfish This has to be one of the greatest photos ever 

It's very tempting to write Saine's story as an on the field redemption story, with Saine looking like he's found his place as one of the top backs on the Packers' roster, but I'm not so certain that's what Saine himself would want his story to about. 

More than an amazing and underrated player who was perhaps not used properly at Ohio State, Saine is the archetypical teammate and just a darn good Buckeye. 

Sonny Fulks recounts an interview he did with Saine as a high school senior, which only reinforces his image as a team-first, no-publicity kind of guy:

I asked him prior to his senior year at Piqua about personal goals he had set for himself for his final season.
“Just to win,”  he answered quietly.  ”Hopefully we have a good year as a team.” 

That was it.  No hyperbole about improving his stock as a Division I college prospect, nothing pertaining to all-time marks at Piqua for rushing and scoring…just focus on the priority of what he could help his team accomplish.  The other 44 guys were just as important as he.

Saine was known for being a quiet, team-first and lead by example kind of guy. He wasn't one to talk a lot about how things were going, but put in the work and do whatever it took for the team to win. And that's the mark of a true Buckeye in my book. 


Comments Show All Comments

JozyMozy's picture

Godspeed, you big, zippy enigma. 

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Who can ever forget the '09 Iowa game? Boom and Zoom were REDICULOUS!

"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

SPreston2001's picture

That was a awesome performance from Boom n Zoom!

BuckeyeNation's picture

There's no way in that firey-pit-below that Saine is faster than Ginn!

SPreston2001's picture

I agree... B Saine may have ran a better 40 time on the track but it didnt translate to the field like Teddy.

439LawDog's picture

Div 1 record holder in the 100m (10.38) 4 state titles and a National title in the 60m

headina's picture

Love Saine


Buckeyejason's picture

Saine was a good player, lacked the wiggle and quickness out of the gate but was a solid all around back. Great kid, I hope he excells in GB.


Maestro's picture

I wrote this about Brandon Saine back in 2010.  It's kinda long so by all means don't feel obligated.  Just wanted to share. Oh, the clip link no longer works by the way so don't click on it.
Ohio State's Brandon Saine Problem
Disclaimer : Brandon Saine is a quality kid who has put it all on the line for Ohio State in his career.  I admire his toughness and leadership.

Wow, 103 yards and 2 TD's against Marshall on just 9 carries.  Impressive stuff when you look at the stat sheet, but when you watch the game..........not quite as impressive.

Fast forward one week to Miami.  12 carries for 7 yards.  The other RB who had carries in the game was Dan Herron, and he totaled 14 carries for 66 yards (that isn't counting a 47 yard shovel pass gain, which is basically a running play so let's say 15 carries for 113 yards for Herron).  I won't count Pryor's running because he is not a RB.

Well that seems a bit strange.  Did the line not block for Saine?  Was Miami running blitzes on all of Saine's carries?  No and no.  Well there were some break downs in the run blocking to be fair to Saine, but there was also some holes to run through.

Brandon Saine is perhaps the best receiving RB in the country.  He showed that yesterday on a short pass over the middle and on a spectacular swing pass reception to score against Miami.  It was a thing of beauty.  He showed it in the 2008 NCG against LSU, and again in the 2010 Rose Bowl.  A fantastic receiver out of the backfield.  A match up problem for defenses to be certain.

But here in lies the rub.  Brandon Saine is not really a running back.

You have to get Saine on the field as a receiver out of the backfield.  He is truly unstoppable in that role.  He also has the break away speed to hit a homerun at RB on occasion.  Evidence of that exists against Michigan last season, Marshall this season, etc. 

If there is a hole DIRECTLY in front of Brandon Saine there is a good chance he will score.  It there is not a hole DIRECTLY in front of Brandon Saine there is a good chance he will lose yards.  He has almost zero running back instincts.  That may sound harsh, but it doesn't take long to realize that it is the case.

So what do you do with Saine?  Well on his touchdown against Miami he did not line up as the RB.  He lined up behind the tackle in a 3 point stance.  Almost hidden behind the OLine.  See at 40 seconds into THIS clip.  This is a play that you might be able to run once or twice without the defense figuring it out, but more than that it is a dead give away.  It doesn't mean that a LB is going to be able to stop the play, but there is no element of surprise in this formation.

So you almost have to play Saine at RB to keep the defense honest.  Otherwise every time he comes into the game it will be obvious what OSU is going to attempt to do with him.  However, if you play him at RB against a quality defensive front you are almost certainly giving up yards that could be gained by any of the other 3 running backs.  All you have to do is watch Saine and Herron in the Miami game to see the dramatic difference between a RB with vision, patience, and RB instincts versus one with very little of that at all.

So should you put Saine at receiver?  I don't think he has the route running skills to succeed in that role either.  Despite the void at the 3rd receiver spot for OSU I don't think Saine would be much of a help there.

He is basically a track guy with great hands and very few football instincts.  He is a "problem" for OSU's offensive coaching staff going forward.

I don't have a good answer to this problem, but if Ohio State wants to win the Big Ten and have a shot at a National Championship the coaches will have to figure it out soon.............or wave a magic wand over Brandon Saine and turn him into a "real" running back.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeyejason's picture

All that is very true. I see Jordan Hall as the polar opposite of Saine. He doesn't have the good size Saine has, or the 4.3 break away speed..but hall as great instincts, shake or cutting ability and explodes out of the hand off quicker. They both are good recieving backs though. 


nickma71's picture

He would have been much more useful as a multi threat. Everybody can see that. Or even a different running scheme, more like Mike Shanahan when he used Alex Gibbs to teach zone blocking in Denver.

buckeyedude's picture

Makes one wonder how Saine would have done under UFM.



Ethos's picture

you know I never really liked the packers, but they keep taking my buckeyes!  so now i find myself rooting for them a lot...

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best