Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Wednesday briefing: Full-house backfield an option
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For the first game all season, Urban Meyer has a healthy stable of rushers.
The Ohio State coach isn't opposed now to turning them into a full-house in the backfield.
Meyer was coy and refused to offer any details about the plays he might be drawing up featuring both Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall now that he finally has them available at the same time. But the Buckeyes certainly have plans for both of them as they gear up for a trip to Michigan State, and the timing couldn't be better with the Big Ten's top rushing defense waiting for them on Saturday.
"It means a lot," Meyer said. "Especially because those two are good players. Their attitudes are fantastic.
"(Hyde) is ready to go, he’s been cleared. He’ll probably be braced up because he still needs if for the MCL for a little stability, but he’s cleared, he'll play."
How much Hyde will play after two weeks on the shelf with a knee strain remains to be seen, particularly because it could have an impact on the number of touches for Hall, the starter.
Hyde filled in with the first-team offense during training camp and the opening couple games while Hall recovered from offseason foot surgery, and the senior reclaimed his spot and carried the ball 17 times in each of the last two outings while the Buckeyes waited to get them both cleared medically.
They've got the full complement now, and Meyer had suggested earlier in the week that Ohio State might be trying to get Hyde and his ability to break tackles on the interior on the field together with Hall, who operates better on the perimeter and has partnered well with quarterback Braxton Miller on the option.
"I think it puts Jordan in a better opportunity to make plays because he’s real good space," wide receiver Jake Stoneburner said. "Having a power back and a guy who can make plays in space at the same time really causes a defense stress.
"Why wouldn’t [they play together] when you have two great running backs on the field with completely different running styles being able to go all over the field?"
A smiling Meyer obviously didn't exactly have an answer for that, joking that he wasn't going to give away his game plan. But after trying just to find enough bodies in the backfield two weeks, now he's got an abundance to deploy however he wants.
End around: The Buckeyes have been waiting just as impatiently to get another starter back on defense, as Michael Bennett has been recovering from a groin injury. They are finally nearing a return for the sophomore.
But just how close the defensive end is to contributing for the first time all season remains unclear and depends on the perspective.
"I think he’s going to be ready and he might start this game," defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. "Today he spent the day [practicing] mostly with the ones, so I think he’s ready. I think he’s going to be a good help for us.
"It’s been kind of hard for him not being out there, because he knows we need a end and he’s one of the best ends that we’ve got. I’m happy that he’s back and he’s going to be ready this week."
Meyer wasn't quite so definitive about what kind of role Bennett could play against the Spartans and bruising tailback Le'Veon Bell, though he did confirm that he'll travel with the team and has earned clearance from the training staff.
But beyond that, the Buckeyes coach is apparently still taking a wait-and-see approach.
"Mike Bennett is not full speed yet, but he’ll be cleared to play," he said. "I don’t know if he’ll play or not, but he’s going."
Loud noises: The Buckeyes worked out indoors on a rainy afternoon in Columbus, and all that did was trap the piped-in crowd noise.
Fans at Spartan Stadium will have a hard time matching the volume the Buckeyes dealt with at their practice facility on Wednesday, but they'll be prepared either way after cranking up the decibels to work on their communication, substitution patterns and hand signals.
"My ears are still ringing," Stoneburner said. "We had that all day inside, and there are times it gets that loud [in a game], but not for two hours. It was pretty tough today.
"A lot of the times when we were subbing we were having troubles, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a stadium that loud. I think we’ll be all right."
Bumps and bruises: The Buckeyes appear likely to have two more starters dealing with injury concerns back in time to play the Spartans.
Meyer indicated cornerback Bradley Roby "will play" after missing last week's win over UAB with a shoulder issue, and safety C.J. Barnett (ankle) is probable after sitting out for a week as well.