- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The final chapter hasn't been written yet for Ohio State's senior class, and a handful of Buckeyes have a chance to author something pretty memorable. This week, we'll be looking at five players with a chance to leave a legacy with the program with one more productive season, what kind of impact they might have this fall and how they might be viewed down the road.
So far: The bruising rusher from Naples, Fla., had to wait longer than perhaps he wanted to before taking over the starting job in the backfield, but Hyde proved that he deserved it with a breakout junior campaign that almost certainly would have included more than 1,000 yards if he'd been healthy all year. Hyde was a monster in the red zone and racked up 17 total touchdowns, which has him knocking on the door to Ohio State's all-time top-10 in career scoring. The Buckeyes have no shortage of legendary tailbacks in the record book, and while a handful will remain untouchable for Hyde no matter what he does this fall, he could still wind up climbing into elite company.
Numbers to date: 315 carries for 1,677 yards and 22 touchdowns; 18 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown
Record chasing: Hyde was almost automatic a year ago when the Buckeyes were knocking on the end-zone door, but there's still plenty of work to do with the scoring bar set so high at a program that has churned out prolific rushers. Hyde still needs 14 more rushing touchdowns to crack the top five in school history, and one more than that would move him ahead of Tim Spencer and Harold Henson into fourth place by himself.
What's next: Clearly the top choice heading into a season for the first time in his career, Hyde finally won't have to prove himself during camp or fight for chances to touch the football. But even as one of Ohio State's first offensive options, along with quarterback Braxton Miller, Hyde might not see quite the same steady diet of carries as he did a year ago with a deeper pool of tailbacks behind him, starting with Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball and likely including touches for freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall. A more explosive Hyde, though, might not need the ball as often to eclipse his yardage total from last season, and breaking through to give coach Urban Meyer his first 1,000-yard running back would give him a legacy that in some ways would transcend Ohio State.
Crystal ball: Projecting Hyde's 2012 season over potentially 14 games this year would put him on pace for nearly 1,400 yards, a number that would give him more than 3,000 yards for his career. Ohio State has only had six players hit that milestone in school history, and with a perfect season already on his resume and a chance to make a run at something even bigger this fall, Hyde is in position to crack the conversation about the great rushers in school history.