Predicting Ohio State’s Top Five Rushers in 2014

By Michael Citro on May 25, 2014 at 8:00a

Kirk Irwin Photography


Running the ball is fun—especially when the other team knows you’re going to do it and still can’t stop it. This has been one of the mainstays of the Ohio State offense under Urban Meyer.

Basically, the Buckeyes could just hand the ball off to Carlos Hyde or have Braxton Miller keep it and it seemed that a minimum of five yards was there every time.

While it would be great to see that continue in 2014, there are a lot of variables in play that could make running the ball this fall a bit more problematic. Four fifths of last year’s offensive line are currently trying to make NFL rosters and Hyde was drafted (way too low) by the San Francisco 49ers.

So if the Buckeyes are going to continue to be able to destroy teams this season, it will be up to a revamped starting line and new faces in the backfield—along with the returning Miller.

We’ve already predicted the top five tacklers and the top five receivers for 2014. Now it’s time to gaze once again into the crystal ball and see what fruit the running game will yield.

Let’s get to the predictions.

5. Curtis Samuel

Samuel appears to be headed for Dontre Wilson’s old role in the offense this fall. He has electric speed and is a great open-field runner, but will need to learn the nuances of running inside in the college game, if his carries in the Spring Game are any indication (and they probably are not).

I like Samuel’s ability, but it’s very difficult for a freshman to make a giant impact in Tom Herman’s offense because there are many responsibilities, including blocking. Wilson made some nice plays last year and I expect Samuel will likely have a similar freshman trajectory.

Prediction: 37 attempts, 239 yards, three touchdowns.

4. Warren Ball

One of the things I found toughest to predict was whether Warren Ball or Bri’onte Dunn will be the primary backup running back this fall. Ball ran for 76 yards on 13 carries (5.8 yards per attempt) in 2013, while Dunn was a surprise redshirt.

I’m not really sure what to read into Urban Meyer saving Dunn for a season except that it will probably motivate Dunn and perhaps it means Meyer would like to keep him around longer. I think Dunn eventually wins the primary backup role over Ball and Rod Smith, but I don’t expect much separation between the two at the end of the day.

Prediction: 78 attempts, 457 yards, five touchdowns.

3. Bri’onte Dunn

As mentioned above, Dunn could very well have been put in mothballs because Meyer loves what he brings to the table and knew he wouldn’t need the redshirt sophomore unless something happened to Hyde and Jordan Hall.

Dunn will be hungry for carries and that should make him a tough man to beat for playing time, but I don’t think he’ s got the big play potential that Ezekiel Elliott has. This means Dunn will be the No. 2 man behind (or next to) Miller in the backfield. I can’t wait to see what he does with the opportunity.

Prediction: 92 attempts, 512 yards, six touchdowns.

Braxton's nifty feet aren't going away in 2014.

2. Braxton Miller

We’d all love to see Miller stand in the pocket and deliver strikes like Troy Smith did his final two seasons in Columbus. Will the offensive line allow that? I’m not sure. Especially in the early games, I expect Miller will have to not only run early in games to keep the defense honest, but he’ll also have to scramble out of trouble more often.

The hope is that Miller’s continued development and maturity will cut down on sack yardage lost. Elliott (and other running backs) will have to show they can fill Hyde’s shoes to keep defenses from keying on Miller’s runs. Ultimately, I think Miller has a similar year running to his 2013 totals.

Prediction: 160 attempts, 1,198 yards, 12 touchdowns.

1. Ezekiel Elliott

Only a sophomore, Elliott has to accept the role of succeeding El Guapo in the Buckeye backfield. He lugged the ball 30 times as a freshman for 262 yards (8.7 YPA) and two touchdowns, but honestly most of his production came against Florida A&M.

Still, the talent is there. Elliott seems the kind of kid who welcomes the challenge of replacing Hyde. He’s big (6-0, 225 pounds) and fast and has more big play potential than El Guapo did. But he’ll have to find the holes that are there and make holes where none exist behind the new offensive line. I expect he’ll do OK.

Prediction: 210 attempts, 1,311 yards, 12 touchdowns.

That’s my five for this fall. Who you got? (And, as always, don’t forget to show your work.)


Comments Show All Comments

Hovenaut's picture

Still hoping Rod Smith finds a way in this group. Leery of that heavy a workload from Braxton, but can't argue with those results (provided he stays healthy).

3800+ yards via the ground attack bodes well. I'll take it.

+9 HS
buckeyepastor's picture

I agree that Meyer sees something in Dunn to red-shirt him as he did.   I think Rod Smith is just not for whatever reason a "fit" with the system, though he could prove to be a life-saver between the tackles this year at times.   I think if Miller needs to be the #2 rusher, we see him dinged up quite a bit along the way.   Can't argue with the logic that he'll need to run a lot, but I think that with the struggles we had on defense last year, the offense got a "pass" on lacking balance.   Braxton's completion percentage has gone up each year, but not where it should be.   When will the pass/rush get some balance in terms of making the defense work?   If it doesn't happen this year, it seems unlikely to happen with a new starter in 2015.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

OSUpawn's picture

I agree we don't really want Miller to be our second leading rusher but odds are he will. He needs to find the sidelines quick and not fight for extra yards. If he plans on playing on Sundays he has to show the ability to go through the reads and make all the throws. Every year I am impressed with his QB progressions. Watching Miller these last few years says a lot about our coaching staff. 

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

OSUpawn's picture

Soph being UFM second 1000 yard rusher with 1300.  Yeah he's that good. Eze is going to make it look easy. #Can'twait

I believe the SEC players put their pants on one leg at a time like we do.

Waltbuck's picture

I think you nailed it here.  The only X factor being Rod Smith.  We can only hope Braxton doesn't have to run for 1,000 yards, but I doubt it because he's just that good.

+1 HS
InTressITrust's picture

He will run for 1000 on 11 attempts.  Shouldn't give him any opportunities to get injured. 

"I'm not going to lie. We're anxious to be a part of a matchup like that. It's two states that love the game of football." -Jim Tressel

+1 HS
FitzBuck's picture

I don't get Rod Smith being buried on the depth chart.  He had fumbling problems that have (as far as we know) gone away.  He had problems learning the play book (it's year 3 can this really still be a problem) he has the tools.  I really wanted to see it all come together.

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

+1 HS
DJ Byrnes's picture

I suspect Rod's problems are more off-the-field than on-the-field.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Killer nuts's picture

I suspect dontre will still get carries on jet sweeps and speed options

+1 HS
WesPatterson23's picture

Yeah I definitely agree. I think he will be in that top 5. I would say he will have around 600 rushing yards and around 1000 receiving yards.

BroJim's picture

The 1,000 yard mark for EZE? IDK, lots of mouths to feed this year. On the other hand, Meyer will want to have a showcase back for crootin'.

I season my simple food with hunger

+1 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Agree.  I don't see EZE getting 1000 yards this year...not with a green O Line and defenses stacked to stop the run until Miller burns them with passes.  That...and other mouths to feed.   If Eze gets a 1000...there will only one happy RB on the team this year.  Him.  

+2 HS
TheBadOwl's picture






When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

BeijingBucks's picture


None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

TheBadOwl's picture

Cardale Jones: 300 rushes, 3500 yards, 50 TD's

Braxton Miller: 1 rush, -7 yards

Everyone else: 0 rushes, 0 yards.


When I walked in this morning and saw the flag was at half mast I thought, "Alright, another bureaucrat ate it." but then I saw it was Li'l Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.

+4 HS
hetuck's picture

He could be this team's Tebow. Use him in the red zone to limit hits on Braxton. At 6'6", 250 & with Smith/Dunn in the backfield, that's a tough short-yardage combo. Add a jump pass to Vannett or Baugh (I assume Heurreman as h-back) and I say do it.   

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

+1 HS
BassDropper's picture

Elliott- 1,415 yards 8 TDs

Dunn- 1,085 yards 14 TDs

Braxton- 758 yards 7 TDs

Samuel- 315 yards 2 TDs

Wilson- 210 yards 4 TDs

Smith- 195 yards 1 TD

Ball- 110 yards


-3 HS
seafus26's picture

A part of me wants to see a small portion of an I-formation package utilized at times with the likes of these backs. But I unfortunately remember Bolman years of adding portions of different systems and never perfecting one.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Unleash the diamond formation...

+3 HS
hetuck's picture

Agree. That's a great way to take advantage of a surfeit of backfield talent while keeping the QB keeper as a threat. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

seafus26's picture

There ya go. I'd take that. I think a diamond formation  we could unleash is unlike those that college has ever seen. We'd have backs with some speed but also big that could just pound folks. I smile with the thought of our backs leaving tracks across the chest of wolverines and then on into the playoffs.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

tussey's picture

Like others have stated above, I think it is in some ways problematic if braxton is running a lot.  If he wants to really impress the NFL scouts, the majority of his rushing attempts should come from scrambles and result in him sliding and or getting out of bounds.  He needs to work on making quick reads and getting the ball out of his hand quickly.  He needs to be confident in the routes and his receivers and allow them to go and make plays by throwing them open.

+1 HS
nikolajz1's picture

I think Braxton is going to limit his running a lot this year. I think one of the terms of him coming back was not being ran 20 times a game because the risk of injury greatly increases. I think Braxton sees a dip in his running numbers like Manziel did last year as he focuses more on getting the ball to the tremendous amount of talent and speed around him and really works on the passing game for NFL scouts. 


-1 HS
swainpm's picture

Did Elliot get named the starter already? Still crossing my fingers to see Smith win it outright.

+3 HS
Blackbeards Delight's picture

How do the coaches limit Braxton carries?

Short routes/quick passes to a platoon of playmakers to do dirty things in space.

This will also mask the inexperienced Offensive lines flaws.

Not to mention pad some passing numbers for possible end of season hardware and NFL opportunities 

Man I was/am in Smiths camp too. For whatever reason he's not Urbans guy. It seems like every time there's a chance for him to ball, some crazy issue arises. Injury, missed flight, academics, alien abduction, Ebola, I know I'm forgetting something.   

"Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr, it's what's for breakfast"

- Me


+1 HS
The Clean North's picture

I just don't see eze as the starter. Has 2 good games against the 2 worst teams in America last year. Still going to be putting up one numbers though don't fry me wrong. 

NuttyBuckeye's picture

I agree that Braxton needs to learn how to avoid contact and take the yardage given.  If he wants to last the season and play in the NFL, he will need to learn to go down on his own THIS YEAR.  His feet are quick enough to get many more yards than an average QB when he takes off.  Forget about the extra 2 or 3 and taking the contact.  Only take the contact if a first down is needed.

And, because of his vision and speed, Braxton can got over 1,000 yards on 140-160 carries, we don't need to have as many QB read runs by him this year.  We can go very far if he stays healthy and can make the throws as the season progresses.  We WILL NOT win a national championship or even a B1G championship on his legs.

What's round on the ends and high in the middle? Tell me if you know!

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Rod Smith will be Urban's 2nd RB to go over 1,000 yards in a season.

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

OSU069's picture

Miller 1200 yds 12 Td's

Elliot 800 yds 7 Td's

Smith 650 yds 6 Td's

Dunn 400 yds 4 Td's

Samuel 350 yds 2 Td's

Wilson 300 yds 2 Td's