- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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The work for the 2013 season is already underway for Ohio State with the strength program in full swing, but the first moves that started shaping the potential encore effort from a perfect campaign began almost two months ago. BuckeyeNation is counting down the five biggest early developments for the team since last season ended and how they will impact the Buckeyes moving forward.
No. 5: Carlos Hyde returns for his senior season
Development: When the opportunity to establish himself as the workhorse back presented itself, Hyde certainly made the most of it in his junior season. After breaking out in a major way for the Buckeyes and piling up touchdowns seemingly all season long, Hyde at least entertained the idea of capitalizing on his productive campaign and making an early jump to the NFL. But ultimately the starting tailback elected to stay, giving him the chance to both compete for a championship and boost his professional stock even more. The benefits, obviously, are mutual.
What it means: The Buckeyes would have still had talented options to turn to in the backfield without Hyde next season, particularly with Jordan Hall coming back from injuries that forced him into an unplanned redshirt year and with Rod Smith showing glimpses of the ability that made him such a coveted prospect when he signed in 2010. But Hyde's mix of power running between the tackles and undervalued top-end speed made for a perfect combination with quarterback Braxton Miller's athleticism on the perimeter, giving Ohio State a deadly inside-outside threat that defenses struggled to defend. Now instead of replacing half of the equation, the Buckeyes can simply add more weapons around them to make the rushing attack even more challenging to slow down.
Numbers game: Few teams were more successful in the red zone last season than the Buckeyes, and it was Hyde's knack for finding the end zone any time the offense was close that paced an attack that converted 76 percent of its possessions inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns. The longest of Hyde's touchdown runs went for 16 yards, which means the other 15 scores all came with Ohio State on the move and inside the red zone as well.
He said it: "Huge [leadership] void. Jordan Hall returning is a tremendous boost, because he was elected captain last year. Looking for [defensive backs] C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant to step up. And then guys that I have already had conversation with that have not been in that situation but now they are, that’s [Corey] 'Philly' Brown and Carlos Hyde." -- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on identifying veteran leaders, including the returning Hyde.