Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Year in review: RBs thrive in tough spot
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A position-by-position look at a perfect season for Ohio State, continuing today by rewinding to look at the explosive play in the backfield and the emergence of a rusher who refused to go down easily.
Carlos Hyde would have likely been the Buckeyes' second 1,000-yard rusher if Ohio State had a bowl game.
Most valuable player: Thrust into the starting role thanks to a freak injury over the summer, Carlos Hyde didn't disappoint early in the season. After dealing with his own minor issue (a sprained knee) in September, Hyde again had to battle back and wait for a chance to make an impact for Ohio State's rushing attack. When Jordan Hall went down again with another injury, Hyde was ready to make the most of another crack at the first-team job and he never looked back. His physical style was complemented by underrated speed, and Hyde was a monster once the Buckeyes got near the goal line while ringing up 17 total touchdowns.
By the numbers: For all the fuss that had been made about Urban Meyer's offenses never having a 1,000-yard rusher, he probably should have had two of them in his first season with the Buckeyes. Braxton Miller's playmaking ability at quarterback helped give Meyer his breakthrough first, but if critics are still holding out because he's not had a true running back clear the barrier, they're holding on by a thread. Even after missing two games due to injury, Hyde came up just 30 yards short -- and considering he averaged 97 yards per game in his first, nearly full season as a starter, he was a lock to get there if the Buckeyes were eligible for the postseason.
Best moment: Facing an early challenge of their toughness and commitment to a power rushing attack in the closing minutes of a physical battle to open conference play at Michigan State, the Buckeyes left little doubt their version of the spread would feature a rushing attack that could blow people off the ball. In a tribute to all 11 guys on the field and a bit of foreshadowing for the rest of the season, Miller and Hyde combined to kill the final four minutes of the game with six hard-charging runs to kill the clock and lock up a momentum-building win.
Preseason question: Could Jordan Hall be the hybrid weapon Meyer's offense has traditionally deployed?
Postseason answer: The Buckeyes only had a glimpse at the senior thanks to his bad run of luck in the health department, so there's still no strong indication either way of what Hall could have done in the uptempo attack. However, a medical redshirt appears likely to bring him back for one more chance to show his versatile skills, which were being put to good use on the 43 touches he had before hurting his knee. In his limited work, Hall accounted for 255 yards and a touchdown even without ever looking like he was 100 percent.
Looking ahead: If Hall's appeal for an additional year of eligibility is approved, the Buckeyes shouldn't have to scramble for help if injuries pop up as frequently as they did in the backfield this season. Hyde left no doubt that he's capable of being the every-down, lead rusher for the Buckeyes, and Rod Smith and a healthy Bri'onte Dunn would provide solid depth behind him. That would leave Hall free to line up all over the field and add a lot more options for Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman to play with, which will only make the Buckeyes more dangerous.