Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of spring game position analysis by The Buckeye Blogger’s Network (BBN). The plan was for Scott and I to collaborate on this post with Scott taking running backs and I’d cover the QBs. However, as you can see below, Scott’s RB analysis deserves it’s own post. I’ll post my QB analysis in a separate post to come.
Running back and Ohio State pretty much go hand in hand. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of these names – Hopalong Cassidy, Vic Janowicz, Eddie George, Robert Smith, Beanie Wells, and some guy named Archie Griffin. In fact, six of the school’s seven Heisman trophies were given to players who were featured as running backs.
But none of those running backs were featured in a spread style offense. With new captain Urban Meyer steering the SS Buckeye, my guess would be the next Ohio State Heisman winner won’t be a between the tackle bruiser.
That doesn’t mean the running back spot will disappear. Heck, look at Oregon – without the Ducks running backs, all their offense would be is fancy laundry and second hand marijuana smoke (as ESPN so eloquently pointed out in its latest magazine issue).
So don’t lose faith in the running back in the spread offense. Contrary to popular belief, the position still exists. So let’s get to it.
What will be most different this year than last?
For one, all of the running backs on this year’s roster presumably paid for their tattoos. Off-field issues aside, the loss of Daniel “Boom” Herron is certainly significant. It was clear by the second half of last season that he was the closest thing the Buckeyes had to a consistent offensive threat, and his leadership was crucial in contests against Illinois and especially Wisconsin. Without Herron’s play, we never would have gotten the chance to experience the one high of last year – Braxton Miller’s game winning heave against Bucky Badger.
And perhaps most damaging of all, we won’t have the chance to yell “Booooooom” after a big play. I’ll actually miss that.
Don’t forget, it will also be different not hearing about Jaamal Berry’s latest run in with the campus police every week. Too bad he was about as successful avoiding defenders as he was avoiding trouble. What a shame.
What are you excited to see at each position? What are you concerned about?
It will no doubt be exciting watching Urban and offensive coordinator Tom Herman taking the Buckeyes into the 21st century offensively, specifically with Jordan Hall. I can’t wait to see number seven sneak out on bubble screens, passes out of the backfield, and spending some time in the slot as receiver.
The key to the spread offense is getting the speed in the open field and not having the 5-foot-9 sub 200 pound shifty back lower his head and run right into the back of his offensive line like a Madden ’98 run (thanks for the memories Jim Bollman). After all, Hall led the Buckeyes in all-purpose yards last year, even though he battled through some nagging injuries and a two game suspension. There’s no reason he can’t astronomically improve under the new regime.
Of course, my excitement comes with a step-by-step chronological manual. After Urban unleashes a no-huddle spread offense attack that includes Hall doing his best Percy Harvin imitation (I bet you haven’t heard any clamoring about who is going to play the Harvin role for the Buckeyes this offseason) for the first quarter to half, the defense will be sufficiently winded. Especially if that defense is made up of 300 pound un-athletic lumberjacks, which ESPN tells me all Big Ten defenses are. Then (El Guapo) Carlos Hyde will play the role of bull in a china shop and ideally kill the will of the opponents and the clock.
These anticipations do not come without caution. I am certainly concerned that there will be growing pains out of the offense as a whole, including the running backs. It’s no secret the offense will be a bit more complex this year, and I think it is going to be a culture shock, especially early on, and I expect some blown assignments, turnovers, and all that fun stuff that makes us throw our remotes across the room.
However, gradually the offense should pick up on the new schemes, pace, and modern day-ness of Herman and Meyer’s system, which will set up for a particularly exciting 2013 season (you know, the one where there will actually be a postseason awaiting).
Who will stand out? Who’s a “rookie” you’re keeping your eyes on?
There is really only one answer when it comes to the running back position for the rookie question: Bri’onte Dunn. There’s a reason Urban was so emphatic about the need to keep him away from the prying (and chicken grease stained) hands of Brady Hoke during the stretch run of recruiting season. The on-again off-again verbal commit eased the minds of Buckeye fans when he officially committed to the Scarlet and Gray shortly after the hiring of Meyer.
He fits a similar mold as Hyde, so expect some early tag team efforts in the aforementioned bull in the china shop moments. He graduated high school early and has reportedly stood out in spring practice, which will only quicken his development. If there is a next Eddie George or Beanie Wells hidden somewhere on this roster, Dunn is probably the one. But let’s do our best to not latch onto those expectations, at least not right away.
Despite all that prognostication about the running back position, it still wouldn’t shock me if Braxton Miller led the team in rushing yards this season. Not that this is a bad thing, but make sure you stay healthy young man.
Be sure to check out the rest of the Buckeye Bloggers Network for complete coverage of the Ohio State Spring Game, and join us on Saturday for Livechat.
Here are the other Ohio State Spring Game position analysis (links will be updated when post go live):
- Offensive Line- The Buckeye Battlecry
- Receivers and Tight Ends- Our Honor Defend
- Linebackers- The Silver Bullet
- Defensive Backs- Buckeye House Call