Rod Smith, Buckeye Running Backs Now in Demand

By Kyle Rowland on July 31, 2013 at 9:30a
Rod Smith has been thrust into a leading role.

The buzz around the Ohio State football team’s national championship hopes has rested on the offense. A high-powered unit led by one of the nation’s most dynamic quarterbacks is sure to attract attention. But headlines are also warranted because of running back Carlos Hyde’s production and still budding potential.

He rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games a year ago, making Miller and Hyde one of the top backfields in the country. But a two-game absence in mid-September put the clamps on Hyde becoming Meyer’s first 1,000-yard running back. One year later, Hyde is already well behind the pace.

Meyer has suspended his star running back for at least the first three games of the 2013 season, due to Hyde’s involvement in an altercation involving a 19-year-old girl at a downtown Columbus bar. Hyde will miss games against Buffalo, San Diego State and Cal, with the latter two opponents capable of the dreaded upset.

So how do you replace a legitimate 1,000-yard all-conference running back who possesses versatile skills – runner, pass-catcher and blocker? At Ohio State, it’s next man up. That’s why the Buckeyes recruit multiple blue-chippers at each position.

Still, Meyer probably didn’t bargain for the latest scenario. Losing a starter the week fall camp begins is never on any coach’s agenda. Certainly not one who fields a top-five team.

Ohio State owned the 10th-best rushing attack last season. If the Buckeyes are to remain in the top 10, Rod Smith will have to supply the team with adequate performances the first three weeks.

The redshirt junior has come a long way since a shaky debut in 2011. First were the fumbles. Then came immaturity. All of it nearly ended with Smith playing for a different school. At 6-foot-3, 238 pounds, Smith has the physique of a linebacker and the speed of a wide receiver. It’s why he was a four-star recruit.

Ironically, linebacker is the position he briefly moved to during that forgettable 2011 campaign. Smith began his redshirt freshman season with high personal goals, as well as lofty expectations from the fans. Multiple fumbles, including one that nearly cost Ohio State a win against Toledo, led him straight to the doghouse.

When he missed a team flight to the Gator Bowl, a game he practiced at linebacker, Smith’s days in Scarlet and Gray seemed numbered. Meyer even met with Smith and his father and recommended transferring. But Smith wanted to be a Buckeye. He came to Ohio State with a purpose, and leaving on someone else’s terms was not how the story would end.

As Hyde’s primary backup in 2012, Smith played in just nine games and only carried the ball 32 times. But he still managed to rush for 215 yards – an average of almost seven yards per carry. Combined with a spring that featured the Rod Smith who was recruited by the nation’s best teams, and there’s reason for Ohio State’s offensive coaches to be excited about the possibilities. 

“He was a physical presence out there,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said about Smith’s spring. “I'm really excited where Rod Smith is right now. He's a young man that's had to overcome some things to get to the point where he is right now. It makes it even that much more rewarding for him and myself.”

The two 30-plus yard touchdowns Smith had a year ago are on file in the back of the coaches’ heads. That’s why the diamond formation was inserted into the offense during the offseason. Because of the personnel, it could be put on hold until Hyde returns in Week 4 for Florida A&M.

Where Smith’s outlook changed was in his work ethic. He’s a first at the facility last to leave type of guy. When playing time was insignificant, he gladly put in time on special teams.

“I'm really excited where Rod Smith is right now. He's a young man that's had to overcome some things to get to the point where he is right now.”

“He’s a good guy,” Meyer said. “I love Rod Smith. I love guys that turn it around.

“What a great message for our entire team. He was lower than most guys on this team. To see him rebound…it's called maturity, and it's happening.”

Shouldering the entire load is doubtful for Smith. But Ohio State has more depth at running back than nay position on the field, so a committee of rushers could be used.

Sophomore Bri’onte Dunn burst on to the scene last season as a freshman. A stocked backfield as well as injuries limited his playing time, but Dunn still managed to be the Big Ten’s freshman of the week for his performance against Illinois – 73 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He tallied 133 yards on the season, gaining more than five yards per carry.

Perhaps the best backfield performer of the spring was Warren Ball. The redshirt freshman missed the entire 2012 season with a knee injury and showed zero ill effects in his comeback. Drayton said he’s the best open-field runner on the team.

Ball has size and can be tough to bring down. More often than not, though, it has to do with his elusiveness and ability to evade tacklers, not their inability to drag him to the ground.

“Warren Ball has shown a capability to be an explosive football player at times,” Drayton said. “I love the way he attacks defenders. I love the capability of hitting a home run from time to time.”

Jordan Hall’s name also could be added to the mix, though he’s still not expected to be a running back in the traditional sense. Some five months after spring practice, the coaches have new names to add to their running back shortlist. Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott, two highly-touted freshmen, jump off the page. Wilson, like Hall, isn’t likely to be a normal running back. His best-used talents are catching the ball and using his speed to separate himself from the defender. He was the talk of Big Ten media days, prompting Meyer to put the kibosh on Wilson’s apparently splendid summer.  

If Ohio State is unable to get consistent production from its running backs, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman would have the option of chewing up yards with the likes of Hall, Wilson, Philly Brown and Jalin Marshall at the pivot position.

This much is clear, the Buckeyes have several options to avoid a pitfall against an upstart team from the state of California.


Comments Show All Comments

DJRoss926's picture

If Rod Smith and the other backs can duplicate these types of runs often enough, we'll be just fine:

45OH4IO's picture

One month!!!! I can smell it!! It's almost here! And this time, it counts!

D. Anthony's picture

If Smith starts holding on to the ball like Eddie did, I could see him holding on to the starting roll even when Hyde's suspension ends. Smith may very well take this chance and run with it (for over 1000 yards).

D. Anthony

BIGHEC39's picture

Me Personally, I think Rod Smith is a overall better Running Back then 'El Guapo'.  He's Much Bigger, Stronger, Faster and he's more elusive......  If he can only hang on to the ball, he much be something special this year..... If he can hold on to the ball and stay healthy, I see him having a monster Year..... Average 100 yards per game over a 14 Game span....... 1400 total yards..  


Evansvillebuckeye's picture

As much as I admire Hyde's ability on the field - it might be better in the long run that these other backs get some touches in the first three games in case we need them later on.  Go Bucks!!

INTLBUCK's picture

Agreed. As long as everyone stays relatively healthy, the potential is there for someone to step into (and maybe even steal) the spotlight in one of the first three games for what becomes a breakout season, possibly a frosh. 

Buckeye06's picture

As stated in the article, OSU still has "a pair and a spare" with Smith, Ball and Dunn (no order).  Add in the ability of our QB to run it 10-15 times a game and we really need about 25-30 carries between those 3 and the end arounds etc. 
Saying that, I'm very comfortable that if Hyde had left for the NFL, we would be confident in our guys returning, and I am

buckguyfan1's picture

Just win Baby!:) 
.... I wish them both the best this season!
Edit: ALL

Run_Fido_Run's picture

It's going to be fun to watch the RB rotation/battles during the first three games. The sense of urgency among Smith, Dunn, and Ball will be palpable.

droessl's picture

It's times like these where I'm especially thankful that we have Urban and a competent offensive coaching staff. 

nfischer's picture

Knowing R.S. can explosively run with the ball (see YouTube clip in first comment) with this versatility below, I think everything is going to be just fine...

Buckeye06's picture

The playcall on this video is awesome, just look at how made Hyde is that he didn't get the ball
Can't blame him since the LBer (or maybe a safety even) left him to go run after Smith (and not catch him), Hyde had nothing but green grass in front of him for 20+ yards likely himself

Bucks13's picture

 I didn't draw up the play, but to me this play was clearly designed to put the ball in Rods hands. Play action to draw the safety in, Rods mimics a lead block, then pulls up and stretches the field. Safety bit, Rod ran past him and created separation, no need for Braxton to check down. Love it when a play works perfectly.

Buckeye06's picture

Oh I agree but if that safety had been say...bama's safety and been able to keep up (not saying Bama's safety could of course), then the check down would have still gotten OSU 20+ yards.
Just a great play drawn up by the offensive staff

Bucks13's picture

+1 To you, and Tom Herman

wendigo's picture

dont think hyde was mad...
if you look at it closely, it looks like braxton checked down to hyde momentarily and hyde motioned for him to bomb it because smith was open.

acBuckeye's picture

I took it as Hyde waving his arm in the air saying he was "open." I don't think he was mad at all.

IBleedSandG's picture

El Guapo was wide open, but so was Hot Rod.


Buckeye06's picture

I wasn't saying Hyde was mad like angry, I was just saying he was wide open too and everyone who is a competitor wants the ball, so he was "angry" that Smith got it instead.
I was only pointing it out to say that I liked the play design because it got 2 guys wide open

BierStube's picture

"As Hyde’s primary backup in 2012, Smith played in just nine games and only carried the ball 32 times. But he still managed to rush for 215 yards – an average of almost seven years per carry"
If he can average 7 years per carry, we will be just fine!
Sorry Kyle, just bust'n on you a bit.
Edit: Feelin good today, upvotes for everybody!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

Kyle Rowland's picture

Chris wrote about Ohio State's deep backfield a couple months ago. Very relevant article today.


acBuckeye's picture

As much as I love watching El Guapo and his running style, and as bad as I'm going to miss him at the beginning of the season, I'm just as happy for Smith and his opportunity to become a big time player. His skill set is ridiculous, and I really, REALLY want him to succeed. The other backs and the pivot guys are just icing on the cake.

Bucks13's picture

Agreed, I love the potential of Rod Smith and I think we all want to see him tear it up. Yeah its unfortunate it happened this way but it happened none the less. I think like others have mentioned not having Carlos may be good for the development of the young guys. It gives them a chance to build some confidence while an already proven player rides the pine for a few games. Extra carries early in the season for the young guys could be huge in the long run for this team for building confidence and experienced depth.

ChazBuckeye's picture

I'm SO glad you wrote this article.  It illustrates how many RBs OSU has as well as the versatile types that are behind Hyde.  Not to mention I can see EzE being used out of the backfield as well as Smith, Hall, Dunn, and Ball.  The stables are full and it's only Hyde's loss, and these other guy's gain.  I'm saying it now, the first three games will not be losing Hyde for those games won't be a detriments to the team's record for the year.  IMHO, the real season starts week 5 against Wiscy.  I just don't see these first four games being all.

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

nfischer's picture

My mind is still operating under 10 years of Tressel-lag (spoken from a Tressel fan).  I think I need another good six games of Urban ball before I'm totally clear headed.  A couple more "I want to rack up 60+ points and embarrass you publicly" games and I should be fine. 
But I hope/think you are right.

ChazBuckeye's picture

Last year was practice...this year will be balls to the wall every game (like what we did to Illinois which I saw first hand from 29A deck;-)  
If you go back and watch film on the offense last year, it was very vanilla compared to what we'll see this year.  I think we'll see a lot of multiple formations and the one I can't wait to see is the Diamond formation with the many combinations that could appear.  I'm SO excited that I can't contain myself with all the possible combinations.  
My OSU buddies and I feel the same way that it will be many 50+ games (for instance, Buff, Cal and FAMU). I tend to think that SDST will be the game that could be a bit closer than most are saying.  Most have Cal as the "scare" OCC game.  Not me....nor many of my friends away from this site.  SDST has the most returning and had the best record last year.  To me, that seems to be way more of a scare than unproven new coach and unproven QBs...not to mention Cal's RB's got lucky and feasted on a very poor tackling Defense at the time as well. This year will be WAY different, at least like you, I hope;-)

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

urbanwarfare's picture

If our o-line is as good as we hope then even 2 yard loss lydel Ross could run the ball

Citrus's picture

If Smith can end the fumblitis, he is special. Huge, strong, and homerun speed. He is more physically gifted and shiftier than Hyde. However, Hyde is more reliable. 

The cupboard is far from bare at RB. This could prove a blessing. Talented backfield will get some game reps, and El Guapo will be fresh for B1G season. 

Can't wait to see opposing defenses pounded into submission by a stable of bruising fast backs, and then beat for homeruns in the passing game. With the experience gained early in the season, Smith has a chance to be counted on when/if Hyde tires latter in the season. 

Ahh Saturday's picture

Citrus has it exactly right. The only thing I would add is that the "if" and "however" are big enough issues to explain why Hyde was the clear starter for this team. Love the ceiling with Smith, but hope he is ready for a sneaky-good San Diego State team as well as being the starter on the road way out in California.

Citrus's picture

Absolutely correct on the "if" and "however" 

tampa buckeye's picture

Even A.D fumbles but id rather have a homerun hitter back there with smith then hyde. Glad to see him finally get the majority of the carries.

BABuckeye's picture

Similar to Eddie George in size and speed and early fumblitis. I hope he follows the same career path as Eddie.

GoBucksToledo's picture

Taking a positive spin on the situation, El Guapo should be fresher down the stretch, not taking as many hits early on, could pay dividends later in the season.

cbusbuckeye's picture

Said the same thing in another post, Hyde should be good and rested for B1G play!

TWCBUCKEYE's picture

Rod hold onto the ball and this could be you!

"Nothing cleanses your soul like getting the [Mark May] kicked out of you."

IBleedSandG's picture

If Braxton wasn't our QB, I think Rod would be a dangerous dark-horse for the Heisman. But you and I both know that QBs get all the credit. Especially a QB like Brax, that already has national recognition.


TWCBUCKEYE's picture

That is the Doak Walker Award for the nations best running back. We do both know Braxton will win the Heisman!

"Nothing cleanses your soul like getting the [Mark May] kicked out of you."

BuddhaBuck's picture

What should not be forgotten in all of this is that the success of Hyde is partially attributed to the quality of the offensive line, 4 of which are returning starters. Smith, Dunn and Ball should have an easier time running behind them...

Don't text while driving.

rkylet83's picture

I think right now we have the best depth at tailback that I have seen in a very long time.  Three quality runners (Smith, Hall, Dunn) that have playing time, an incoming freshman class with two potential stars (Wilson, Elliot) and a redshirt freshman (Ball) that has shown great ability in the spring game.  I think Hyde will be used regardless of how well the plethora of other backs perform, but his status of "feature back" will certainly be up in the air. 

Squirrel Master's picture

difference this year from last is the other options in Hall, Wilson, Brown and Marshall. At the beginning of last season, even Brown wasn't what he is today. There was nothing in the slot that resembles what they have now.
So lets say, god forbid, RS does continue to have fumbling issues and the others just don't pick up the slack, there is talent at other positions to help out. All I know is Braxton shouldn't have to do what he did last year on his own.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

johnny11's picture

I'm excited for the other backs to show what they can do as well just wish it was for different reasons. I really like Rod's skill set the most and as long as he can hold on to the ball. The results he could produce could definitely be outstanding in this offense. Its going to be nice no matter what to see what these young backs can do with more touches.

Frankly Scarlet's picture

I will admit that the depth at running back is impressive.
However, it is all potential right now. In other words, none of these guys have shown they are ready to replace what Carlos did on the field last year. Just sayin'...

"Buclkle your chinstrap, we're gonna grind meat!" - Woody Hayes  

chitown buckeye's picture

I was never one of the "sky is falling" guys after Hyde's incident simply because of the depth we have at RB. It literally is a next man up situation. I have confidence in Smith. His only problem has ever been holding onto the football. I am gong to trust he has taken steps to improve that negative. 
Not to take anything away from Hyde but I believe Braxton was a big part of Hyde's success.  Making the right read and having defenses key on a talent like Braxton,  makes it much easier on a big bruising back like Hyde or Smith. As long as there is a playmaker at QB I think almost any RB is going to be successful in this offense. Much like how Peyton Manning can turn just about any receiver into a pro bowler, I believe Braxton could do the same with any competent RB simply by making good solid reads and staying a threat himself.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

RBuck's picture

After hearing how Ball did in the spring, he's the RB I'm most anxious to see.

Long live the southend.

Buckeyeneer's picture

You want to see Warren Ball? Here he is after dealing with Coach Micky.
From Scout. He's 211 lbs on the left 225 lbs on the right. He's putting everybody on notice.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

IBleedSandG's picture

Was about to post this. Saw the pic on Bucknuts yesterday. I wish they would put some slightly longer shorts on these guys when they take the pics.


acBuckeye's picture

I'm assuming they do that in order to show the growth/definition in the quads/legs.

Larryp713's picture

Absolute Beast. There is so many people who look ready to step up. Scary.



BuckeyeSouth's picture

So let me get this straight, that's our 4th string running back?

Champions.  Undisputed.  

Furious George 27's picture

They had him tabbed as the most impressive last year before injury.

Yeah, well…that’s just like, your opinion, man.

osu07asu10's picture

I am actually going to go ahead and say by the season opener, you'll be looking at our #1 back.
NOT because of the picture, he was consistently the best big play threat that we had in spring ball. The fact that he is 230 lbs and a beast makes that all the more insane.
I'm not entirely convinced Smith has fixed his fumblitis. He had a pretty poor non-contact fumble against IU last year, through 61 career carries he's coughed it up 4 times. 2 coming last season, his 3rd in the program.
A true freshman last year, Dunn's mop up playing time was at times limited by the fact that he struggled to understand the playbook. There were a few times he went the wrong way after the snap.  With the playbook expanding and the offense becoming more complex, it is imperative that he grasps the offense completely to earn significant time.
That leaves Ball. Injuries aside, he has always had praise heaped upon him.  I think he makes a huge move, siezes the starting spot, and a new star is born.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

ChazBuckeye's picture

Thank you for showing this before and after pic.  This guy gets forgotten a lot and I saw him kill it first hand for St. Fran. De Sales.  He's a beast and you can see by the pic he works his ass off...something that won't go unnoticed by Urban and Co.  

Some people think we’re the hunted.I don’t feel that way at all.We’re the hunter.Everybody wants an angry football team.Everybody wants a team on edge and a hungry team.If you’re a hunter,that usually equates to being hungry.

Edincostarica's picture

I really like the idea of some of these backs getting playing time early. At least a very good chance. This is going to be beneficial later in the season.


ScarletNGrey01's picture

The bucks have a great stable of RB's but let's not kid ourselves here ... Hyde is a monster of a RB and was on schedule to be one of the best backs in the country, the guy is a human bowling ball.  His presence WILL be missed.  Everyone has made some good points however, the Roby situation probably should be more of a concern.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

JayDonk's picture

I am extremely excited to see Rod Smith get a significant amount of carries. I think he is the real deal and that his fumbling issue is a thing of the past. Go Bucks!

They only hate us because we're great.

Buckeye80's picture

Anytime you lose a starter it is reason for concern.  Hyde was our starter for a reason.  With that said, I've been telling my buddies for at least the past year and a half that Rod Smith is more explosive than Hyde.  I can't wait for this season to start!

Hovenaut's picture

This is all going to work out just fine, the stable is in good supply.

WezBuck28's picture

Rod Smith's guns in that pic are enough to make me lay flat if I were a defender and my job is to tackle him..dudes a beast!

Maestro's picture

I expect good things from Dunn and Ball.  Rod has the chance to be a stud, but I don't trust him to hold the rock.  

vacuuming sucks

Urban Nation Army's picture

Now that the Hyde situation is Dunn, I still have to believe we'll be in good hands with whoever carries the Ball.

Bet you can't say "Bert Bielma is a bumbling buffoon" five times fast.

rekrul's picture

Let me start by saying, regardless of how loaded we are I do not like that any of our players out.  I think it does a little bit to team chemistry, maybe not so much when he is out but when he comes back.  Him and the people around him having game time chemistry.  In saying that remember last year when Hall was out?  I think looking at us now, we are leaps and bounds more sure of a fill in this year than we were last.  Besides what I mentioned I just hope Hyde is eased back to save him from himself because hall ended up hurting his knee when he came back, just hopefully he gets eased back in.  We are going to need all of the experience and depth we can get if we are going to make a run at the NC.

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

Ethos's picture

Wait, so what is Hall? Chopped liver?

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

Toilrt Paper's picture

Hall is a slot/H back, not chopped liver.

Larryp713's picture

I can see this as a blessing the second half of B1G play for a couple reasons. First, I think we might get a quicker introduction to Dontre Wilson, and some opportunities for the other H-Backs (Hall and Ez E) against defenses that will not be able to handle all the weapons we have. I think as we get deeper in the conference schedule, the more times we will need a healthy El Guapo to move chains and eat clock at the end of close games. I just cannot wait to Aug 31.



Toilrt Paper's picture

In my mind the question is will Carlos get his job back. If I was Hyde that would concern me more than anything else he is facing. Rod Smith is a STUD. If he's chewing up yardage and not fumbling, might the coaches want to just ride him right on into his Senior year?  

Nkohl13's picture

Can we petition the NCAA to expand the size of the playing field and raise the number of players on the field at once? We just have so much talent and I don't want them to have to sit on the bench.

harleymanjax's picture

"Who is this Rod Smith you speak of?"...................BETH MOWINS

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

Squirrel Master's picture

"You must mean Rod Jones"
It's not unusual..

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

There is so much depth and talent in the Ohio State backfield that it will be great to see all of the younger players display their talents.  There are at least 5 or 6 guys you can put in the backfield and feel confident that they have what it takes to play big time D1 college ball.  Man, I can't wait for the opening game to get here!!
Go Bucks!!

Squirrel Master's picture

Does anyone wonder if the 3 game suspension helps ease tension in the limited PT for each of the players in the backfield. With Hyde out of the way for a few games, more playing for the backups. 
So not only is Hyde's suspension going to get early playing time for the future ball carriers but also keep everyone happy because they will see more opportunities. 
and in the end, Hyde comes back for that championship push and perhaps a little chip on his shoulder. 
I mean it is always bad to lose a stud player like Hyde for 3 or so games, but I'm sure some of those RB are thinking "I will get a chance to run more now". 

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

pjtobin's picture

Holy stable full of pure studs!!! This has to be the most depth at rb I can think of. This is going to be fun!!!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad.