Is Curtis Samuel Ohio State's Best Running Back? Maybe, But He'll Never Admit It

By Patrick Maks on September 16, 2014 at 3:15 pm

After a 66-0 rout of Kent State, at post game interviews, Curtis Samuel did not smile and the inflection of his voice varied like one might talk about different kinds of copy paper.

That’s odd considering Samuel, a true freshman with seemingly all the potential in the world, had every reason to be happy Saturday afternoon against the Golden Flashes.

He led Ohio State in rushing with 100 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and tacked on four catches for 40 more yards.

With every touch Samuel gets, it becomes more and more apparent why head coach Urban Meyer told ESPN that the kid from Brooklyn had “stolen his heart" prior to the team's training camp.

There’s reason and substance for why he’s pushing sophomore Ezekiel Elliott for the starting job and why fellow backs Rod Smith, Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn are chasing him from behind.

For once, Meyer’s lavish praise on a youngster more than hyperbole. It’s why it’s also not an exaggeration to say Samuel might be the best running back on the roster.

Good luck with ever getting him to admit that, though.

Ask Samuel about himself — about his rise toward the top of the depth chart, about increased carries, about blatant plays designed to put the ball in his hands — and he’ll deflect those kinds of questions.

Seriously, ask him something as innocuous as to evaluate — not compare — himself and he sidesteps it like a defender on the perimeter.

“Today we had a lot of great backs do some great things,” Samuel said. “Rod Smith, he went out there and did a good job. Zeke went out there and had a good game.”

But none of them were as effective as Samuel and his 5-foot-11, 196-pound frame.

“I just wanted to pick it up a little bit on my offensive end and keep it going,” he said.

That’s a classic undersell that makes him seem like an afterthought in a game plan that so obviously deviated toward him in the second half against a woefully outmatched Kent State team.

“Whenever Coach Meyer puts the ball in my hands, I’m gonna make plays,” Samuel said.

“It’s not a concern for me for how many times I get the ball: I gotta build confidence in my coach that he knows I’m gonna make plays when I get the ball.”

To be sure, Samuel became a focal point of an offense still searching for an identity because the lopsided contest allowed him to be. But bursts of strong play against Navy and even Virginia Tech suggest this isn’t all a one-time thing.

And for the Buckeyes — which got offensively exposed against the Hokies — it can’t be.

“Coming off a loss, we just wanted to get our offense going,” Samuel said. “That was our focus coming into the game.”

His role in all of it?

“We started feeding it to him because I think he's got a really good future here,” Meyer said Saturday night.

For Samuel, the future might not be so far off.

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