The Dilemma: Too Many Skill Players, Just One Football

By Michael Citro on April 19, 2013 at 11:30a

Someone had better get Wilson, Nike and Spalding on the phone, because the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes are going to need a lot more footballs.

Bri'onte Dunn will be looking for more carries in 2013.

Wealthy in the skill positions, the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves having to placate a large number of offensive weapons. Tom Herman will be tasked by Urban Meyer to maximize the efficacy of his offense this fall. Herman has the personnel to do that, but the problem — which is a good one to have — is keeping everyone well fed with the sweet delicacy of touches.

Braxton Miller is expected to have the ball in his hands on virtually every snap, so it won’t be a problem getting him his touches. Miller seems the kind of guy who would be happy doing whatever it takes to make the team successful, so cutting his carries probably wouldn’t bother him. That said, there have been times where he’s kept the ball when he shouldn’t have — perhaps more so out of a desire to make a play than a bad read. A greater trust in the weapons around him should alleviate that.

Miller’s (and Herman's) options will be multiple, whether on the ground or through the air. Ohio State has a stable of talented running backs, a burgeoning group at wide receiver, and the best group of tight ends Urban Meyer has ever had. Taking a look at each group makes one wonder how Meyer and Herman will be able to satisfy the hunger of all his skill guys.

Running Back

It all starts with El Guapo. Carlos Hyde should see the bulk of the carries this season from the tailback position. Coming off a 970-yard season in 2012, Hyde is starving for a 1,000-yard effort this fall. Only an injury prevented it last season. But this year, the emergence of Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn and the return of Warren Ball could possibly siphon enough carries from Hyde to keep him from reaching that milestone.

Smith sat out the spring game with a concussion, but reports out of spring camp were very positive. We’ve seen Smith’s raw ability in action, but ball security issues have kept him off the field at times. If the junior-to-be can take care of the rock, it’ll be tough for Meyer to keep him off the field.

Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball are battling it out for the third-string tailback spot. Dunn will be a sophomore and Ball a redshirt freshman. Dunn has shown good speed and power and soft hands in the passing game. His issues last year were largely due to inexperience — missed assignments, turning the wrong way at the snap, and so forthTM* (TM Jim Tressel). Theoretically, he’ll be in line for more playing time in 2013.

However, Ball threw a monkey wrench into the works by being a force this spring. Ball consistently produced the longest runs in spring practice, and both Meyer and Herman are looking for more explosion plays. Long runs in game situations will certainly earn Ball more, well, balls.

Ohio State will add another talented back this fall when Ezekiel Elliott enrolls. The four-star back out of St. Louis is one of the top recruits in the country at his position and will push for immediate playing time. He produced more than 3,000 all-purpose yards and 50(!) touchdowns as a senior in high school. More than 2,000 of those yards and 40(!) scores came on the ground.

The “Percy Position”

In the hybrid role, Jordan Hall will be trying to put on his best Percy Harvin act. Hall missed most of last season due to injury and offers an intriguing blend of running and catching skills. He may be slightly more likely to catch the football than run it this season, but Herman will deploy this weapon in a number of ways. The more successful he is in that role, the more footballs will come his way.

Potentially pushing Hall for that hybrid role will be incoming freshman Jalin Marshall. The Middletown product was one of the state’s top overall recruits as a quarterback, although that isn’t how Meyer plans to use him. (Still, don’t be surprised if he throws a pass or two in his OSU career.) The Marshall plan is to mold him into that Percy position. If he develops quickly, he’ll steal some carries and catches from the upperclassmen early.

Wide Receiver

Corey "Philly" Brown will look to build on a 60-catch season.

The starting wide receivers this season will be Philly Brown and Devin Smith on the outside, with Chris Fields in the slot. Fields was named a starter after the spring game.

He came out of nowhere to go from journeyman/career backup to starter after a solid spring, during which he impressed the coaching staff and his teammates. Fields showed his versatility in the spring game, rushing for a touchdown and catching five passes for 37 yards, playing for both the Scarlet and Gray squads.

Brown had a breakout year in 2012, catching 60 passes for 669 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged more than 50 yards receiving per game. Toward the end of the season, Brown started to show more elusiveness in the open field and turned more short gains into first downs and bigger plays. If that trend continues he’ll become an all-conference performer and will surely see more passes thrown his way.

Smith was a home run threat last season as a sophomore but only caught 30 passes. He’ll be looking to expand his role in 2013. Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas will also be pushing for more snaps and more catches this fall. Keeping all of those guys happy will take a tremendous juggling act by both the coaching staff and the quarterback.

In addition, incoming freshmen James Clark, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson may see the field early, although the latter may end up at running back, per Stan Drayton.

All three frosh have the potential to crack the two-deep their first season. They could leapfrog a guy like Frank Epitropoulos, although I'm rooting for the Galloping Greek to see the field this year, if only because I coined the nickname "The Galloping Greek" for him and want to use it more often.

Tight End

It seems like every year we hear about the tight end position and how involved it will be in the offense. After Meyer told the College Football Live crew that this group of tight ends is the best he’s ever had, that talk has reached a new level of hyperbole.

It’s true that it’s a talented group. Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett have already shown what they can do. Vannett averaged almost 14 yards per reception as a freshman last year on nine receptions. Heuerman caught only eight balls, including a post-Eat Too Brutus touchdown against Nebraska. He also grabbed the key two-point conversion in the Purdue game. Incoming freshman Marcus Baugh out of Riverside, CA, could be even better than both before he’s through. I’m going out on a limb here and saying the tight ends will catch more than 17 combined passes in 2013.

How will Braxton keep this many weapons happy? Winning games will help, but clearly Miller will need to spread the ball around quite a bit to feed all his hungry playmakers. Of all the problems a football team can have, having to find ways to get the football to everyone is a pretty nice one.


Comments Show All Comments

703Buckeye's picture

Solidify that RT spot and amazing things will happen with this offense!

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

Hovenaut's picture

Guess the spread holds more meaning than just the formation.

Still a team sport here. Sure its nice to have individual standouts, but if the offense can distribute the ball among the weapons with efficiency I think that makes this system all the more effective.

osu07asu10's picture

His issues last year were largely due to inexperience — missed assignments, turning the wrong way at the snap, and so forthTM* (TM Jim Tressel).

HAHA! Excellent use of so forth, and the JT trademark

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

Earle's picture

With all the other weapons, I'm all for minimizing Braxton's carries for the majority of the season to keep him fresh and healthy for the stretch run.  The only stat I'm interested in is 14-0.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

stittracer99's picture

Picture this, the Wildcat Diamond formation. As much as I'm all for having the ball in Braxton's hands on every play, I'm even more for keeping our biggest and most valuable weapon healthy. The first thing that went through my head reading this article was that there is absolutely no need to take the chance of having Brax getting lit up on a designed run.  He's most dangerous when the plays break down anyway so give these other work horses a chance to wear down a defense. Plus, can you imagine the opposing team's defense looking across the line and seeing Hyde, Smith, Dunn, and Ball all in the backfield at the same time with Hall, Brown, and Smith flanked out, and then have the realization that best player isn't even on the field!

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

that would just be wrong... I hope we see it in action!

CC's picture

You're missing a key point here.  It may be a designed run but if there is no threat of pass you will see 8 in the box.  With Braxton as a legit threat to throw and 3 wideouts you will almost never see 8 in the box. 
The reason the diamond works is because it creates a numbers problem when you have a qb who is a threat to throw the ball.  Look at Urban's last UF team.  They ran the wildcat and such but w/o a dual threat qb it means nothing.

osubuckeye4life's picture

Two words.....Jalin Marshall

joethejester's picture

He's most dangerous when the plays break down anyway

What are you talking about?  Brax was not good at making something out of nothing.  He got sacked more often than not.  His explosive runs were all off called qb keepers or reads.  You must be remembering TP who was actually awesome when plays broke down because he just out ran everyone to the sticks.

johnny11's picture

Yah if the incoming freshman develop fast its going to very interesting how touches will work. Its a good problem to have though. Herman may have to consider slowing it down a bit to give the defense a rest because the offense is scoring to much and too fast.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

The Marshall plan is to mold him into that Percy position.

Bravo, Michael! You managed to put two witty "pregnant" puns/allusions into one brief sentence. 

BoFuquel's picture

Injuries will almost always take care of a talent glut.If not injury, the wise will see the handwrighting on the wall and head for greener pastures.It will work itself out.The strong will go on and the others will perish, just like any other phase of life.GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

The Buckeyes offense can "solve" the problem by scoring TDs on most series.
Blow out the opposition by halftime, giving backups more chances to get carries and catches.
Tell Hyde that if he wants to get 100+ yards a game, he'll need to do it in 14-20 carries per game. 

WezBuck28's picture

I tell ya..having so much talent and depth at the skill positions really sux..<----sarcasm 

USMC11917's picture

Dontre starting off in the RB stable is a stark contradiction to what EZE was told, or what was reported to us. Wonder if this becomes a soar spot?

rdubs's picture

Well it might be okay if they plan to use him in that slot-back position with Hall and Marshall.  I wonder which position group they will be with, could go either way.

smith5568's picture

Great minds think alike. 

Crimson's picture

I can't remember the names that distinguish the positions, but I thought Hall and Marshall were supposed to be the WR hybrid, while Wilson was supposed to be the RB hybrid, but none of the three were supposed to be pure RB or WR.
Then again, this is just a coach wanting Wilson to be a RB, not that he will be one.

Doc's picture

IS IT AUGUST YET!!!  HOLY CRAP AM I READY FOR FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This is going to be the longest summer of my life.  I'm so excited to see this team play!

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

buckguyfan1's picture

Should be fun to watch!

pddally's picture

Heck,ask the ncaa if we can play 5 quarters,that'l do it!!


MediBuck's picture

This is undoubtedly an embarrassment of riches.
On the bright side, this means that teams will have great difficulty game-planning around taking away one aspect of our offense--we'll hurt you by land, air, and sea!

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

Earle's picture

I'll just be here waiting for them to unveil the "submarine" formation...

Snarkies gonna snark. 

CC's picture

Am i the only one that would like to see what happens if Rod get's the # of carries Carlos got last year?  It seemed like every time he touched the ball he was a threat.  Carlos was great but Rod was scary in a TJ Yeldon kind of way.

Buckeyejason's picture

Am i the only one that would like to see what happens if Rod get's the # of carries Carlos got last year

Thats asking for about 3 fumbles a game. Also he didn't seem like a threat every time he touched the ball..if that was the case he would've been the #1 back already.


SPreston2001's picture

Oh gawd where does this Rod Smith hype come from??!! I mean seriously the guy was a stud in H.S. and had a few good runs last year but geesh it wasnt anything special lol. I mean root for the guy and want to see him explode but come'on he's been very average since the day he arrived on campus...

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

A few good runs with limited carries.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

USMC11917's picture

Other than the fumbles, he has made some very good runs with some shiftiness and determination. Like Hyde he always gets at minimal a few yards, he's always moving forward. I think he has better hips and feet but lacks the hands (ball security) that Hyde has. I can't tell who is faster. I know in practice they say Hyde but Smith looks up to the challenge. If he is on par with Hyde then I say keep limiting Smiths carries since he is the junior back. Smith will have his year next year if he is the top thoroughbred. Bad news is the number of O linemen replaced next year.

Buckeyejason's picture

Oh gawd where does this Rod Smith hype come from??!! I mean seriously the guy was a stud in H.S. and had a few good runs last year but geesh it wasnt anything special lol. I mean root for the guy and want to see him explode but come'on he's been very average since the day he arrived on campus...

I wonder that myself...same thing with Curtis Grant. I think its the whole recruiting thing that gets people so into these guys. Im rooting harder for the Warren Balls and Luke Roberts's of the world rather then the over hyped players.


Buckeyejason's picture

I wonder myself how they are going to satisfy all these talented athletes.
Marshall, Elliot, Wilson, Clark, Dunn, Ball, Campbell etc etc 


TNbuckeye91's picture

I just can't wait for NCAA 14. Ill smoke everyone. Its the closest thing to having real talent for me.

I come from a long line high, low, and in-between, the same as you. - TVZ

benlight01's picture

Definitely not doing shots after touchdowns this year. Alcohol poisoning because of the Buffalo game would just be sad.

buckeyenobility's picture

The diamond formation is just going to be lethal..... so many options with Hyde, Rod, Dunn, Zeke, D Wilson, Marshall, and so on. We have never had this much speed on the team for as long as I can remember.

SPreston2001's picture

Yeah I really wanna see Wilson, Zeke, & Marshall get involved in the offense. I honestly never thought Dunn fit into Urbs system so i'll have to see how that works out. I can see Dunn transferring if he doesnt get the touches he wants this year. 

buckeyenobility's picture

Just my opinion but if anyone transfers i get the feeling Ball will transfer. I would think Dunn will get the majority of the carries next season

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I think Rod will get most or half of the carries.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

buckeyenobility's picture

I could see it going either way honestly. Rod has so much talent with speed and power but still has not learned to hold on to the ball. Call me crazy but I see alot of Beanie in Dunn. One way or another we have lots of options when you consider the freshman

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Outside of his size, I don't see how they're similar.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

buckeyenobility's picture

Both big guys with better athletic ability than you would think. We really won't see dunn used to his full potential considering we have so many options but he would have the ability to be the featured guy in the backfield.

Buckeyejason's picture

Ball wont transfer. Hes a columbus kid and true Buckeye all the way. He'll get his time to shine at OSU.


CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Man, it's really exciting to see all of the talent that is both developing and coming in!  I'm getting fired up just reading these articles!!  I think they will find a way to spread the balls around so that the talent is maximized and we get good development across the board.  Can't wait for football season to get here. 
Let's go Bucks!

MN Buckeye's picture

The best thing about all of the talent is dealing with injuries.  Distributing the ball will be important and getting the young guys playing time will help with this.  Actually, I am not all embarrassed to have these riches.

Doesntwork's picture

there is no such thing as too many skilled players for UFM.  He will find a way to work every single one of them in provided that they stay angry.