Filling the Void: Replacing Hyde, Hall

By Michael Citro on January 23, 2014 at 2:15p
EzE is a strong contender to follow El Guapo at starting RB.

During his four-year career at Ohio State, Carlos Hyde rumbled for 3,198 yards and 37 touchdowns.  Jordan Hall ran for 1,568 yards and 14 scores.

Hyde also finished with 271 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while Hall completed his career with 286 yards and also reached the end zone four times.

During the 2013 season alone, Hyde and Hall combined for 2,257 combined rushing and receiving yards, and 26 (!) scores.

Both exhausted their eligibility as Buckeyes after the 2013 season.

Urban Meyer and Tom Herman will be tasked with replacing a running back tandem that covered more than three miles of turf between them during their time at Ohio State.

The two graduating seniors certainly leave behind a stockpile of talent at their position, but talent alone is not a guarantee of success. It takes more than pure athletic ability to play running back for a major college program.

An Ohio State running back must be comfortable with, and fit, the scheme, know his role, block well — both in pass protection and designed quarterback runs — and understand the situation during the game (i.e. when to stay in bounds /make sure to stop the clock, etc.).

El Guapo was a very special player for the Buckeyes over the past two years. Hall was a savvy fifth-year senior. Despite the wealth of talent waiting in the wings, those two veterans will not easily be replaced. There will likely be growing pains as the new starter settles into the position.

So who is the next man up?

Dunn may be hungry coming off a redshirt season.Dunn might be the hungriest of Ohio State's RB contenders.

Experience-wise, Rod Smith is the most tenured runner, but he saw the field sparingly after starting the 2013 season on suspension. A senior-to-be, Smith carried only 22 times in 11 games for 117 yards and a touchdown. He caught four passes for 16 more yards. In three seasons, he has 448 rushing yards and four touchdowns, with 86 receiving yards and another score through the air. One of his main advantages in the running back battle is his 6-foot-3, 232-pound physique.

But Smith was not a significant factor on offense for Ohio State in 2013 and he was seemingly passed on the depth chart by freshman Ezekiel Elliott.

Like Smith, Elliott appeared in 11 games in 2013. He carried 30 times for 262 yards and two scores, and caught three balls for 21 yards and a touchdown. His 8.7 yards-per-carry average led all Buckeyes with five or more attempts, but the bulk of his yardage (162 on 14 carries) came against Florida A&M. Elliott may be the favorite to start in 2014.

While Elliott certainly looks the part of the next great OSU running back, I’m not counting out Bri'onte Dunn to start next season. I think there’s a reason that Meyer gave Dunn the rare sophomore redshirt in 2014. Dunn has good size and speed, as well as the ability to get yards after contact. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a true freshman in 2012, finishing with 25 attempts for 133 yards and a pair of touchdowns. After a year without playing time, he may be the hungriest of the contenders for the position.

I expect the battle between Dunn, Elliott and Smith to be among the most intriguing of the off-season, possibly lasting well into fall camp.

Warren Ball also returns for Ohio State. The local product out of DeSales High School saw the field in 11 games in 2013, finishing with 76 yards on 13 carries. He didn’t score or catch a pass during his redshirt freshman year (a foot injury forced the redshirt in 2012), but he did manage a respectable 5.8-yard average per attempt and did not have any negative rushes. Ball has talent and will look to make this a four-way race for lead dog. But I see him as more of an emerging depth player than a starter in 2014.

What about Dontre Wilson?

Wilson won’t compete for the traditional tailback role, but he will return as a sophomore to his hybrid spot. From that position, he lugged the ball 31 times as a true frosh, gaining 250 yards and scoring once. He also caught 22 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson's role may be expanded to help both the new starter at tailback and a rebuilt offensive line.

To keep his starting job, Wilson will likely have to fend off the competition of a talented stable of youngsters, including redshirt-freshman-to-be Jalin Marshall and incoming true freshmen Curtis Samuel and Parris Campbell.

Samuel and Campbell will have to work with Mickey Moratti to put on muscle weight if they want to run between the tackles in the Big Ten — they are each under 190 pounds — but both are possibilities to compete for the starting tailback spot in the future. I would expect at least one of them to redshirt next season.

The plethora of world class talent in Ohio State’s offensive backfield represents an embarrassment of riches. But even with all that athleticism and ability, replacing a legendary bell cow like Hyde, as well as a gritty, experienced veteran such as Hall, will still be a challenge.

The next man up will have big shoes to fill.


Comments Show All Comments

Thomas's picture

Replacing Hyde is a near impossible feat. I do think the athletes are there, and we see the offense evolve this year. I don't think you need to replace Hyde, just adapt to what you have and get better. 

Seattle Linga's picture

Nicely said Thomas - I also think that it may take some time to get the running game clicking on all cylinders as we have so many offensive weapons and BM will try and spread the ball around as well. 
Remember Hyde was not available for the first few games last year and he was a nightmare to tackle once he got in there.

hodge's picture

This might actually be a good thing.  I really think that Hyde's effectiveness gave Herman and Meyer a security blanket from which to constantly fall back on; which came at the expense of allowing Braxton to get into rhythm throwing the ball.
I mean, think about it: when you're constantly asking your QB to run the ball and hand it off all the time, is it all that surprising that when you need him to throw he's inconsistent?  He's been punished all game and hasn't developed any kind of consistency in passing.
Granted, our wideouts had trouble gaining separation, too.  So, personally I'm hoping that a new crop of young wideouts can help Braxton develop his passing to the point that we achieve that elusive 60/40 run/pass ratio.  Perhaps it's the Kool-Aid I've been pounding since the MSU loss, but I have faith.

Boxley's picture

Yes x 2.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

W-burgbuck's picture

Thomas hit the nail on the head, you can't replace Hyde but running back is one position I am not worried about. I guess I could give the generic answer of Smith fumbling worries me but i don't remember him fumbling this year and he is extremely talented. No worries here.


Buckeyeneer's picture

I think he had a couple of fumble two years ago and everyone is still holding that against him. I would like to see him get a shot . . . but with our stable of backs I could see him getting passed up.

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

THE Ohio State University

W-burgbuck's picture

I think he'll get a shot but be on a short leash. To much talent to keep on the bench, but with so much talent behind him I don't see them thinking twice about pulling him if he fumbles


swainpm's picture

Personally I am excited to see Smith. I actually liked him better than Carlos at the start of 2012. Yes he fumbled but so did Eddie. RSmith just seems to be that explosive run through you type of back with speed. Here is hoping he kicks the old fumblitis and makes my prognostications look good. I told my brother he would win a heisman after Hyde left. My chances seemed alot better in 2012, but I still got a chance right? He's gonna have his hands full beating Elliot though.

BuckAlum35's picture

Now if only our D can get more stops this year so more of these guys can get touches, so many players that I want to see what they can do!

tosubuckeye's picture

Replacing Hyde is (only) part of the battle. The biggest challenge is replacing the outstanding seniors on our Oline.  If/When our "new" Oline gets in synch with our running game and the offense as a whole, with the skill set of our rb's, we will be better than Good.  I believe we can insert any of our rb's and find success.  However, there is one kid who I believe stands out in terms of "hunger", "work ethic", "passion" and "drive" and that is #15 EzE.  This assessment is based on all I have read about this rb, and it points to stardom in the future.  GO BUCKS!!!!



seafus26's picture

If he can learn to throw a tight spiral and not put the nose of the ball up the air would help too

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

dwcbuckeye's picture

Other than say Clarett, I have been most impressed with Eze as a freshman TB.  I clearly recall being excited when Hyde got in a few games as a freshman also thinking he may become something special.  Not many I have felt that way, but Eze is one of them.  Remember that special teams block?  Kid's a player

wilkins0802's picture

I agree. I also remember seeing Hyde get in there as a Freshman, and thinking "I can't wait to see this kid in a few years," I deff feel the same about EzE too.

Truth & Courage, 1-17IN, 5/2 SBCT


RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

Hyde is one of the best RBs I've ever seen wear the scarlet and gray. I've watched that TD run against Iowa at least 20 times, and I could watch it another 500 without growing tired of seeing it.
Having said that, I am comfortable with the idea of a backfield comprised of Elliot and Dunn. I'm more concerned about the O-line and inability to field a respectable passing game, but I have faith that those items will be ironed out before next season. Go Bucks!

wilkins0802's picture

Honestly, Smith reminds me a lot of Eddie George. By no means am I comparing, however Eddie had some fumbling issues earlier in his career, and Smith's pure speed through the tackles and in the open really impresses me. I am really excited for EzE next year too. He has great potential with the way he runs, if he gets better in the offseason he will be a force on offense. Only time will tell.

Truth & Courage, 1-17IN, 5/2 SBCT


mc22's picture

The best thing is we have not only have depth at the RB position - but quality depth.
I think we will see the same at WR as well.  Lots of options for Braxton if the line holds up.

GoBucksToledo's picture

With all this talent would love to see us run the diamond formation a few times.

zebiraross's picture

Eze... that is all.


Hovenaut's picture

I grew up a fan of the workhorse running back - Byers, Harris, El Guapo.
Wouldn't mind seeing Rod Smith get a real crack at stepping into the power back role, but I'd rather see the stable unleashed. Time to spread the ball and utilize the talent in this unit.

BAR43's picture

I am a little surprised that people keep overlooking Ball and go right to Dunn. From my understanding Ball had a much better spring. Haven't really seen Dunn do anything worth noting either. Hopefully we can see both in spring ball and early games next year to see what they bring to the table.

steveoz49's picture

Of the position groups that are replacing key players... RB is NOT a position that I'm concerned about.  Plenty of able horses in the stable.

Mortc15's picture

As mentioned by others, if the holes in the line arent filled with solid replacements, it doesnt matter what your stable looks like, they wont be getting too far. With that being said, I think OSU's o-line will be replaced soundly and we'll see a multitude of the mentioned names unleashed this coming year. Unless someone makes it impossible to ignore and clearly distances himself, I'd expect all 4 (Smith, Eze, Dunn, Ball) to see some carries early in the season. Ultimately though, I think it'll come down to Eze and Smith, maybe a 1-2 duo from mid season on.


Dread's picture

You make a good point about replacing the offensive line. This lends more fuel to the EZE fire. I was watching some of his HS film the other day, and this kid is use to running behind a bad line. It looked like the OL was running a screen play, and EZE is doing his best Barry Sanders impressions in the backfield. Kid's got some serious talent.

nm_buck's picture

Eze is the man this year.  one more off season with Mickey M look out.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

DC-town's picture

That's a pretty solid line-up, Ezekiel along with rod smith or brionte, Ball for short yardage.
can I be the first to say; if one of the 18-22 year old college students make a bad decision in spring quarter, lets not be shocked or freak out

'Piss excellence' -RB

DC-town's picture

Err semester- 

'Piss excellence' -RB

SoDakBuckeyeFan's picture

I don't know which of these dudes is gonna get the lions share of the carries this year but the competition should be fun to follow this spring and fall. I hope they push each other hard to be the best and we end up with a freakish stable of backs. But gun to my head gotta pick I'd say EZE will probably be the one seeing the bulk of the time. Not sure why just going with my gut. 


buckeyepastor's picture

No doubt in my mind that Smith and Elliott can carry the load in terms of getting yards between the tackles, and I think if Dunn can have a solid return he brings a burst, especially outside the tackles.   The question mark really is with how well the three of them can protect the ball (Hyde and Hall were great with ball security) and more than last year it will be really critical that whoever is lined up at tailback can protect Braxton Miller or anyone else at QB.  
Kind of hoping that they can make Jalin Marshall into a big play threat at wideout.  Even if he isn't the crispest route runner, we saw last year with Philly and Wilson how effective we can be with just swinging it out to an athlete at the LOS and giving him a block.  We will miss Philly as a blocker downfield.   At least we've got Spencer for one more year in that capacity.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way"