Stan Drayton's Impossible Task: Replacing Carlos Hyde

By Kyle Rowland on March 28, 2014 at 9:15a
31 Comments

When Urban Meyer was hired, this situation was unthinkable. Ohio State couldn’t possibly be a power run team. And it certainly wouldn’t have a 1,500-yard rusher.

Wrong.

Carlos Hyde gave fans visions of Eddie George, as he rushed for more than 1,500 yards last season, becoming the first Meyer-coached running back to surpass the 1,000-yard barrier. But all that production is gone. So, whom do the Buckeyes turn to?

There are many options, and they’ll need all hands – or legs – on deck. Running backs coach Stan Drayton doesn’t mince words, and he isn’t particular about who gets yards or carries. He just doesn’t want a severe drop off from Hyde’s historic 2013 season.

“[He] has to be replaced. This is The Ohio State University, and it’s the next man up,” Drayton exclaimed. “I’m sure if you asked Carlos Hyde, he’d tell you the same thing. It’s the next man up. Somebody has to step up and fill the shoes of Carlos Hyde. If it takes more than one guy to do that, I promise you it’s going to get done.” 

The candidates are Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and Curtis Samuel. Platoon running back systems aren’t the wave of the future; they’re already dominating present-day NFL rosters. The void Hyde leaves could set in motion a similar depth chart for Ohio State. Hyde’s attributes were perfectly suited for the Buckeye offense. But as Urban Meyer and Tom Herman explained earlier in the week, ideas evolve each year.

“We know we’ve got big shoes to fill,” Smith said. “You come out here, you watch us play, you can see our backfield as a whole, what it’s going to be this season. We’re going to make a lot noise. You’re going to hear us. We’re not going to be unheard.”

For 2014, there is no ideal body type or running style, only yardage producers. When Ohio State required a handful of yards, Hyde possessed the ability to remove all doubt – he was going to pick up a first down. That same efficiency and worry-free attitude might disappear from the Buckeyes’ high-octane offense.

“I’m always going to operate under the notion that I need at least three. And there’s five of them,” Drayton said. “All those guys are in the mix. They’re so competitive. They all bring something different to the table, they all have a different style and different strengths and weaknesses. They can all help this football team.

“I just prefer a guy who is going to be productive, period.”

Even at this time a year ago, Hyde’s full value hadn’t yet bloomed. There were brief glimpses in 2011 and 2012 spawned 970 yards in an incomplete season. Still, few envisioned the breakout that would ensue. Hyde went from dark horse Heisman contender to a possible first-round draft pick.

“We know we’ve got big shoes to fill. We’re going to make a lot noise. You’re going to hear us. We’re not going to be unheard.”– Rod Smith

How involved was he in last year’s offensive game plan? Enough to have more carries than the rest of Ohio State’s tailbacks combined. Hyde also had more yards last season than Elliott, Smith, Dunn and Ball have totaled in their careers.

“They have a culture that’s being created in that room right now that they’re trying to be the hardest working unit on the football field, and I really see them trying to do that,” Drayton said. “If they keep that mindset and keep that unselfishness in their back pocket somewhere, we’re definitely going to exceed our goals. I really believe that.”

One of those goals is to take mileage off Braxton Miller. The senior-to-be was leaned on less for his running last season thanks to Hyde’s dependability. Jordan Hall, a forgotten man, also gave Miller a reprieve. But those losses combined with a retooled offensive line could put more stress on the signal caller.

The pecking order to replace Hyde is Elliott, Smith, Dunn, Ball and Samuel. Elliott, who’s added 25 pounds of muscle, put in an impressive 11-game performance that included nearly nine yards per carry. He finished with 262 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Elliott’s similar to Hyde in that he’s big-bodied and fast. There was pause Tuesday, though, when Herman lamented his “still playing like a freshman.”

Smith and Dunn each came to Ohio State believing they would one day be the starter. Those thoughts could still come to fruition. But they’ve experienced shortcomings that stunted their talent growth. Ball’s still developing, while Samuel, a true freshman with blazing speed, could be featured in a hybrid role.

All five look to their predecessor for inspiration and advice. Hyde may have had his demons at Ohio State, but he left a legacy of excellence on the turf in Ohio Stadium.

“Carlos was like a big brother to me. He taught me a lot, he taught everybody a lot,” Dunn said. “His example last year, it just taught us all a lot.”

Said Drayton: “It’s really incredible. [Hyde’s] been the best example for us off the field – how he grew into manhood, how he became unselfish. His business on the football field became more about his teammates. Those are the things that we harp on person-to-person in the meeting room. We share it with the entire team. That was a transformation of a boy going to manhood – a guy who made some mistakes, confessed his mistakes and went on do some great things.”

Taking on that kind of mentor role this year is Smith, the lone senior in the group. It’s been an up-and-down journey to his fourth season. There have been fumbles, long runs, touchdowns and a suspension. Yet, it hasn’t deteriorated his leadership.

“I’m trying to pass on what I know, so they won’t make the same mistakes I made,” said a humbled Smith. “It was just growing up. I’m 22 now. All of that stuff, I was young and immature. I’ve grown up a lot. We’ve talked about it as a team. The team sees me growing and my running back group sees me growing. I’ve helped them out. All I can do is help them to not make the mistakes and just keep getting better.”

For now, the quintet is studying the playbook, reviewing film and helping one another through the process. While playing time’s at stake, the objective is to place the best running back – or backs – on the field.

Their message to anxious onlookers is simple.

“Don’t worry,” Elliott said, “we have a stable full of backs that are very capable.”

31 Comments

Comments

osu07asu10's picture

This is what Drayton must envision when he walks into practice...

Exciting!

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

+8 HS
cinserious's picture

Carry on young steed!

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

BucksFan2000's picture

Whoever replaces Hyde - any chance we'll give them the ball in the 4th quarter of big games?
 

+10 HS
OfficerRabbit's picture

After the B1G Championship game, one of the coaches (Meyer maybe?) was talking about the 4th and 2 call that sent Braxton to the short side of the field, and said something to the effect of "we wanted our best player to have the ball".

Now, I think Braxton is/was our best player, but no one other that Hyde had any business getting the ball on 4th and short. Still pisses me off.

 

 

+15 HS
2morrow's picture

Couldn't agree with you guys more --- still pisses me off too!

+4 HS
Furious George 27's picture

I agree with the statement, but its always easy to critize a call after the fact. If it was Hyde up the middle and he was stopped people would be saying the play call was predictable and MSU was waiting for it. OSU didn't seal the edge and the defender made a good play.

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

+8 HS
Enzo's picture

The reason it was a bad call had more to do with the fact the same Braxton keeper to the short side failed multiple times earlier in the game. Hyde gets that first down.

+1 HS
Young_Turk's picture

What did Borland do to him on the goal-line?  

+1 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Pocket aces get busted.... still have to play the odds

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken

+3 HS
Furious George 27's picture

The play actually worked for the TD to tie the game, biggest difference was the edge was not sealed on the 4th and 2. You can't say for sure that Hyde would have gotten it either MSU sold out for the run. I would be more upset with the play calling that led to the 17-0 deficit. I too would have liked to have seen Hyde but its over and done with.

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

+4 HS
OfficerRabbit's picture

I've been serially up-voting you just because of your Big Lebowski quote.

Now... Shut the **** up Donny!

 

 

+1 HS
seafus26's picture

The play was predictable. We were yelling from the 50 yardline just off the field as soon as we noticed Braxton's ever recognizable stance that he rocks weight all the way forward when it's a straight (no fake or option) QB run, awaiting the snap. We were yelling," No!!! " They did surprise us when they let MSU dictate going away from our strong side instead of motioning Huerman over to change the numbers on the strong/left side.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

sb97's picture

Now, I think Braxton is/was our best player, but no one other that Hyde had any business getting the ball on 4th and short. Still pisses me off.

 I absolutely agree with you but there was an article on 11w after the season that did at least open my eyes as to why they may have gone with Brax instead:

http://www.elevenwarriors.com/ohio-state-football/2014/03/34043/carlos-hyde-still-impressive-when-using-advanced-metrics

Interesting enough, the numbers say Carlos Hyde struggled against stacked boxes in short yardage situations. Peshek notes while Carlos is good in yards after contact, his struggles against stacked boxes "raises questions about which part of his game will translate to the NFL."

Personally, I still think the ball should have gone to Hyde.

+2 HS
OfficerRabbit's picture

Thanks for the stats sir. Obviously I'm no D1 coach, but it seems like running your 230lb back who was having a hell of a second half would have been the smart decision, given that we only needed 1-2 yards. Alas, it's over and time to move on.

 

 

Seattle Linga's picture

Defenses think they are going to have it easier now that HYDE is gone but I have a feeling this will be a better team with all the offensive weapons.

OfficerRabbit's picture

What I wouldn't give to see #34 behind Braxton for one more season. We're gonna miss that guy.

Hope you tear it up in the NFL Carlos!

 

 

+1 HS
southbay's picture

Smith is big, fast and has shown some great moves, I recall an electrifying TD run against Nebraska in 2012.  But he didn't get it put together last season.  I really want to see him break out.  Could be, Elliott is either going to push him to do that, or leave him behind.

+3 HS
Son of Sevenless's picture

Agree about Smith. Hard to believe it is already his last chance to make an impact.  Hopefully he can be a major contributor in his final season.

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Also still hoping Rod Smith breaks out - especially between the tackles.

 

I am not the Last Dragon, therefore I do not possess the power of the Glow.

+1 HS
johnny11's picture

Stan Drayton's job is an awesome job to have. The hardest part is finding the consistency he needs in games. He will never have a shortage of talent back there though. I'm still hoping Smith brings it like I thought he would all these years. I won't be mad if its Elliot, Dunn, or Ball though. Go Bucks

+1 HS
seafus26's picture

I believe the likes of a Stan Drayton are much better fits with our young kids than coaches we've had in the past or worse the fatties scUM employs. Most of our staff look believable when they demonstrate what they want done on a given play. They seem to have high energy and their fire is not laughed at by the players. I can imagine the snickering at a scUM practice while Joke or Mattison get in a stance, barely able to bend over and more or less falling when demonstrating and then being completely out of breathe while ranting. Ala... Jim Bollman or that stick kid we had coaching QB's

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

DC-town's picture

We have an embarrassment of riches and hopefully they're all buying into the program and will all stick around.  Makes me think of when the USC backfield was loaded a few years ago, but I do t think thy we're bought in

someone said it earlier but if they seal the edge, Braxton picks up the first- great call if he makes it, bums are coaching if not

 

'Piss excellence' -RB

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Kind of a random questions... But what happened to Jordan Hall over the course of the season?  I read that he dealt with a little bit of a knee issue, but was that what kept him off of the field pretty much all year?  We could've use more 2 back sets and had him on the field.  I thought he looked really good in limited time.  Is he going to have a shot in the NFL?

+1 HS
cinserious's picture

Between Elliott, Rod Smith, Dunn and Ball, whoever has the playbook down through and through will be the starter. The main guy to be depended on. If Elliott gained 25lb of muscle...WOW! He should have Hyde's size now along with speed and quickness, moves and jukes! Physically, they all look good, but who will know the ins and outs of the entire offense?

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+1 HS
Brandon26841's picture

If Elliott gained 25lb of muscle...WOW!

They must be referring to how much weight he's gained since his senior year of high school, because he was listed at 218 last season as a freshman. 

CGroverL's picture

Rod Smith is listed at 238 pounds and has that extra gear that Hyde never had. When Hyde saw a DB, he tried to run them over...when Smith sees a DB, he will try to make them miss and he has the feet to do it. I truly believe that Rod Smith has what it takes to put up numbers like Eddie George and better than El Guapo's...as long as he doesn't put the ball on the turf and go back in the dog house AGAIN......Great pic and "Karate Kid" reference.

 

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

+3 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Not giving the ball to Hyde in the CCG was a mistake, those were the kind of play calls that made Tebow a cfb legend though. I don't know how much we can blame Meyer for going to something that had worked for him in the past. As crappy as that turned out, it'll only make him a better coach.... lemonade plz, ty...

Hopefully the whole stable of running backs break out and allow the touches to be spread around. Keep the hits off the boys until they're getting paid for it in the NFL. Five guys averaging 5+ a carry sounds good to me....

I'm too drunk to taste this chicken

cinserious's picture

That top pic of Stan Drayton looks like a young Billy D Williams. Just needs a pony tail.

Life's daily struggle is choosing between saying F--ck-it, or soldiering on with your responsibilities.  

+1 HS
Donny K's picture

Would love to see Brionte get on the field this year. I liked what I saw his freshman year. Big back w/speed.