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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Ohio State backfield in motion

By Brad Bournival

This isn’t Woody Hayes’ team anymore.

Three yards and a cloud of dust has been replaced by three split out wide on one side and another two receivers on the other with an empty backfield.

While Ohio State will likely still keep one bruising running back -- this season’s version is Carlos Hyde -- the running back position is changing in Columbus, Ohio, for the most part.

One look at the offense shows exactly what has happened at the position under Urban Meyer.

Bri'onte Dunn
Bri'onte Dunn and the rest of the Ohio State running backs have had to work on being receiving threats.
Ezekiel Elliott, Warren Ball, Bri'onte Dunn, Rod Smith and Jordan Hall can lower the shoulder if need be. So can 2014 commit Parris Campbell Jr.

But they can catch the ball too, changing things considerably.

“I think it’s helped them a lot,” Campbell said. “It’s a big improvement. Now you’re not running, you’re catching it as well. It spreads the offense out more. It’s not just limited to running.”

The proof is in the numbers.

As a senior, Elliott amassed 2,533 total yards of offense and scored 50 touchdowns, with 383 of those yards and four touchdowns coming as a receiver.

Ball was a back that rushed for 1,232 yards and scored 29 touchdowns as a senior, but also showed speed and hands.

Hall might be the epitome of the position, as his role has completely changed.

After missing all but three games for Ohio State last season with foot and knee injuries, he earned a medical redshirt.

The senior might not be back in the kind of shape he’ll need to be in if he is to do everything required in his new role on the Buckeyes’ offense.

It took only one day of practice for him to show instant proof of how productive his move to the Pivot position could be. With one big catch in traffic deep down the field, Hall provided a glimpse of what might be when his transition is complete -- and what his role as a running back/wide receiver hybrid might mean for a spread attack that was already explosive.
The fact of the matter is that’s how most Ohio State running backs have to think, as Meyer’s fast-break offense asks for a little bit of everything.

In the end, it should make for an exciting brand not only on game day, but in practice as well.

“It’s going to make us really good,” Campbell said. “When I get down there, I’ll have to fight for a spot. It’ll make us much better.”