Hometown Boy Ready to Make Good

By Kyle Rowland on June 4, 2014 at 11:30a

When fears about a reshaped offensive line subside, attention turns to running back. For two seasons, Carlos Hyde plowed through opponents, gaining nearly 2,500 yards along the way. Ezekiel Elliott is expected to produce in a similar manner in 2014 and beyond.

There’s more than one tailback in Ohio State’s crowded stable. California Chrome might not be occupying a barn, but the Buckeyes believe they can recreate the yards Hyde took with him to San Francisco. The forgotten man is Warren Ball. But it’s easy to overlook someone when the position is deeper than the Caspian Sea.

Elliott, Ball, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn are only the beginning. Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel are destined to get carries as well. The sheer numbers and talent level present endless competition in the backfield, which spurs growth and camaraderie. Hostility doesn’t exist in the Ohio State running backs room.  

For two seasons, Ball has done little on the football field. He redshirted his true freshman season after suffering a foot injury, and Year 2 yielded 13 carries for 76 yards. Half those totals came in a scrimmage against Florida A&M. Excuse the cynics for doubting the locally grown kid.

“I definitely feel that I have a chip on my shoulder,” said Ball, a DeSales grad. “Being injured my first year, coming down here and having to redshirt, then not playing maybe as much as I wanted to but being able to learn the offense and see Carlos grow and continue to learn the offense. I have a chip on my shoulder and something to prove. I want to work to show Buckeye Nation what I can do.”

In his spring audition, Ball wasn’t Cats on Broadway, but he delivered a standing-ovation worthy performance. The spring game served as a breakout, with eight carries, 55 yards and a touchdown representing the offense’s bright spot. And that sun-splashed day in Ohio Stadium wasn’t the first positive visual. Instead, it acted as one day of many in a progression from practice player to relevance.

The past two seasons saw Hyde operate as the Buckeyes’ primary running back, but he wasn’t the lone ball carrier to receive touches. A similar script is likely for 2014, thanks to an offensive line that will assuredly lack cohesion the first month of the season and a group of running backs with little space from one through four.

Stan Drayton is one of the happiest people in Columbus. The running backs coach recognizes what he has in his group, choosing to use production over what’s perceived as stateliness and splendor.

“I don’t care how it gets done,” Drayton said. “It’s not a matter of me getting the prototypical 6-foot, 230-pound running back. It’s not that. If it’s 5-foot-9, 200 pounds and if you’re going to do what I’m asking you to do at the level I’m asking you to do it, then we’re going to live with that.”

Six-foot-1, 224 pounds. That’s where Ball stands. On the field, he’s trying to get better without constant worry about taking a misstep and coaches thinking negatively about it. Ball is happy to see his teammates succeed and hopes to stay on the same arc.

“Growing up, you always dream of that starting role,” he said. “When that opportunity is there, you want to do everything that you can to seize it. Going in day in and day out, doing everything that you can to take advantage of that opportunity.”

That entails making big plays and other qualities that become noticeable among the handful of ball carriers. After a standout high school career and multiple speed bumps at Ohio State, Ball has no shortage of ammo to fuel his yearning.

The end result comes after working diligently when cameras aren’t pointed at you and fans aren’t cheering. Once the lights shine bright, roaming the field freely is second nature.


Comments Show All Comments

Phillips.449's picture

Does always wear a sleeve on his left arm? That is one heck of a farmer's tan he has.  Plus that left arm is a bit more "beefy" than his right!  Time to do curls on the right as well Warren!

+14 HS
Burnsy's picture

Don't ever make me scroll up again. 

Jbucks's picture

"Forgotten Man" he is! chip on his shoulder has gotta be enormous, lets hope that boulder on his back is put to good use on the field

Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it-John 1:5 SEC meet Ohio State, Ohio State meet SEC

buckeyeradar's picture

Just a chance to prove that's all anyone of are backs want.  Maybe with an improved defense that means more carries for everyone and maybe putting 50 on everyone.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

WhySoSerious's picture

I really don't understand why he doesn't get more run, looked real good in the spring. He would be my 2nd back in rotation. 


Like the ball in the stands, we balls out

+1 HS
BroJim's picture

Love the underdog story. I hope we get to see something out of the young man.

I season my simple food with hunger

Northbrook's picture

I have always liked his game and would love to see him get a bigger role.

Posterchild's picture

I thought Tre was working in the slot now, not at running back?

Crimson's picture

He is, but that's not to say that he won't get a carry starting in the backfield (speed option, etc.).

ToetotheFace's picture

He is getting more work as a WR, but I'm pretty sure he is still playing in the Perc..."Philly Brown" position. He didn't start there last season as he wasn't a good enough WR yet.

GreatLakesBeer's picture

Stay hungry you never know how the season will play out. There may come a time when need to rely on bali

If you will it dude, it is no dream

+1 HS
DoubleB's picture

Love me some Warren Ball! Gotta pull for a hometown guy who seems to be a hard worker and just a good guy.

Plus I'm hoping he keeps my old #28 jersey relevant!


+1 HS
SLVRBLLTS's picture

I gotta say I'm happy about still having my #4 ... kid looks promising

"Because we couldn't go for three"

Hovenaut's picture

There's good opportunities for young Bucks to breakthrough this season - o-line, LB's, DB's. The competition at running back demands the bar be raised by someone.

I like EzE, still have hope for Rod Smith and Dunn is certainly in the mix. But I can't say I'd be surprised if Warren Ball steps up this fall.

+2 HS
BUCKSOMIES's picture

Ball would be the number one or at least two on 90% of the Big.  We are indeed blessed at RB.

+1 HS
buckeyedude's picture

I forgot that Ball had decent SIZE, for a RB. How does he compare to Smith & Dunn, size wise?  I can't remember shit.



whobdis's picture

I really liked Ball coming out of HS. I know Dunn was rated higher but Ball had more in his skillset in my opinion. Like others have said he would be starting at a lot of schools. Last year in camp some coach said he had more long runs than anyone against the first team D. He has the vision, size, balance and speed. I remember seeing this pic of him running track..the kid is a huge


Knarcisi's picture

What a luxury to be a Buckeye fan. I'd be comfortable with any 4 of our guys toting the rock. Go ge em Warren. May the competition bring out the best in all of you. 

ArizonaBuckeye's picture

Love reading this kid has a huge chip on his shoulder. The backfield is so stacked, I can't wait to see what it can do this fall! I still say they should've left Rod Smith at LB, or moved him to the Viper. He's such a freak athlete, I think he could've been like a Jamal Marcus; unless he just couldn't get a grasp the defensive scheme. This backfield is so loaded with more reliable ball-carriers, I just don't see him getting much time this season ( Hey, I could be completely wrong, I'm not a coach ). My projection is: Elliot #1, Ball #2, Dunn #3. Smith #4 / Hybrid: Wilson #1, Marshall #2, Samuel #3 when it's all said and done. Go Buckeyes!

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you." -Woody Hayes-

Shangheyed's picture

Sadly there is just one Football on the field at all times...

Nutinpa's picture

Agreed.  And a coach who hasn't shown a willingness to do a lot of platooning.  Granted, Hyde was a beast and you can't blame Drayton for force-feeding him. 

But this feel-good piece notwithstanding, we'd be naive to think all 5 RBs (or 4 if you want to move Wilson to a slot receiver) will be happy by mid-season.  One or two happy guys, maybe.  But that's it.  These guys were too heralded coming out of high school to be told..."play hard on special teams and you'll get your chance to run the ball".   That b.s. won't sell for long and that ship has sailed for one or two of these kids.

cinserious's picture

In a way, the backfield is wide open all the way around. Zeke's likely to get the first crack at it but the next three will be nipping at his heels. Whoever has the overall game AND mental fortitude will end up as the starter within the first few games. Don't forget, there will be some designed runs for Brax and Samuel as well.

My $$$ is on EZE getting the bulk of the carries with Samuel as his 'outside' running mate.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

BuckWylde's picture

Warren Ball has shown more "wiggle" and is the shiftiest of the backs I've seen, in this playing-time derby.  I just hope that the chip on his shoulder brings out an ability to run with an angry edge. Ball has every tangible quality needed to be a big-time back, at this level and even on Sundays, but what I think he needs to show this season is a "Beast Mode" refuse to be denied attitude to coaches. Man, I'm sure there are lots of coaches that would LOVE to have Stan Drayton's problems this year!

All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions. -Adlai Stevenson, governor, US ambassador

seafus26's picture

Diamond formation can get more of these backs on the field.  I seem to remember Warren being around the ball quite a bit on special teams last year. Ball was on the ball (sorry couldn't help it).

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+1 HS