The departure of Carlos Hyde left a gaping hole in the Buckeye backfield. Hoping to fill it are five talented players in senior Rod Smith, freshman Curtis Samuel and sophomores Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and Ezekiel Elliott.
Of the five, I believe Elliott has the best chance to grab the starting spot. Last season the St. Louis native fought his way up the totem pole, serving as Hyde’s primary backup. Carlos didn’t come out often, but when he did Elliott made the most of the opportunity to the tune of 30 carries for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. Against Florida A&M Elliott truly showcased his abilities rushing for 162 yards, 2 touchdowns and an 11.6 YPC on just 14 attempts.
The kid has wheels, size and some nice shake and bakes. For a little reminder, here are his five best runs of the 2013 season.
#5: Florida A&M Side-Step
Up 55 to nothing on the Florida A&M Rattlers, the Buckeyes were roughly a quarter into flexing their second team muscle. A steady dose of rushes from Cardale Jones and Elliott worked the Scarlet and Gray down to the FAMU 16 yard line. On second and six Elliott took the handoff and plowed up the center of the Rattler defense. Just as it looked like he might be stacked up, EzE sidestepped to his left and took it into the endzone.
#4: Purdue Screen
In an effort to avenge the near-loss to the Boilermakers from a year ago, the Scarlet and Gray came in to Purdue’s Ross-Ade stadium on a mission. By the end of the second quarter, that assignment looked to be complete. Up 35-0 the Buckeyes were once again driving, fueled by a 42-yard rush by Hyde to the Purdue 21. Elliott came in to spell Carlos and immediately reeled off an 11-yard run for a first down before finding his way into the endzone via this Braxton Miller pass. While this isn’t technically a run, Elliott does all the work via his legs, particularly the trucking of a Purdue defender at the goal-line.
#3: Florida A&M Career Best
With roughly four minutes left in the third quarter of FAMU’s flogging, Elliott took the handoff, worked to his right and ended up with a Rattler DE clinging to his back. Elliott was able to shake the tackle, maintain his footing and bust it to the outside for a 57-yard gain; the longest of his career.
#2: Penn State X-Brax Impression
In an embarrassment of Bill O’Brien’s Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes found themselves up 56-7 with 10 minutes left to play in Columbus. At the controls were Kenny Guiton and EzE, spelling the victorious Miller and Hyde who cooled their heels on the sideline. Braxton may not have been in the game, but Elliott certainly did his best to emulate him here. Nothing like successfully eluding a blitzing safety who is immediately in the backfield, only to charge forward for an impressive first down.
#1: Purdue Stiff Arm
The run above was impressive because it showcased Elliott’s escapability, but no rush was more dominating than this one from the third quarter against Purdue. This is EzE throwing a linebacker to the ground with a stiff arm then going to get the first down. The shades of Beanie here are irrefutable. Plays like this are what get Buckeye Nation excited about No. 15.
There will be an open competition to replace Carlos Hyde for the 2014 season. A number of talented players are set to throw their hat into the ring, but only one had a significant opportunity to showcase what he can do on Saturdays. If Ezekiel Elliott practices anything like he played last season, there’s no question he’ll be the Buckeyes’ No. 1 in 2014.