Buckeyes will use running backs by committee
COLUMBUS — It’s a stretch to say Ohio State has a superstar tailback.
But consider depth and overall quality, and the Buckeyes truly have a full-house backfield.
“That’s safe to say (that we have) lots of options. I’d go one step further — lots of good options. That’s even better,” running backs coach Dick Tressel said after Thursday’s workout.
Co-starters Brandon Saine and Dan Herron don’t rank individually with the likes of legends Archie Griffin and Eddie George, among others, but as a 1-2 punch they’re pretty special.
“Those guys are really good,” said head coach Jim Tressel, Dick’s younger brother.
Saine, a former Ohio schoolboy sprint champion who will be a senior this fall, rushed for 739 yards while averaging over 5 yards per carry a year ago for the Buckeyes, who went 11-2, took their fifth straight Big Ten title and then won the Rose Bowl.
Herron had injury problems, but the junior-to-be still gained an even 600 yards and added seven touchdowns.
Saine, who is 6-foot-1 and 217 pounds, said that he and Herron propel each other to be better.
“Oh, definitely. I think it’s more than just me and Boom,” he said. “We have a bunch of great tailbacks in the backfield and we all push each other.”
When you consider that quarterback Terrelle Pryor is also a threat to run — he led the Buckeyes with 779 rushing yards and added seven TD runs — it’s easy to see why both Tressels are so happy with the depth at the position.
Blend in backups Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, Jermil Martin, Carlos Hyde and several other candidates and it’s easy to see why fortifying the running attack isn’t a high-priority job during spring workouts.
Offensive lineman Bryant Browning says he has the utmost faith in the guys who carry the ball.
“I feel that we’ve got a lot of great guys back there that can get the ball and go,” he said. “As a unit, when you know you’ve got great guys behind you, it motivates us to maybe even go even harder. Because you know if they get a gap or a split or something, those guys can hit it and take it all the way in for a touchdown.”
There are only so many carries available. But so far it seems as if Saine and Herron have been good about sharing.
“Of course, we’d like to get a lot of carries. But it’s always good to have a fresh guy in there,” said Herron, who is 5-10 and 193 pounds. “I think me and Brandon work very well together splitting the carries. The coaches are going to get us our carries. I think it’s a pretty good thing.”
Saine said the competitiveness makes it “a lot more fun.”
“It makes us both better,” he said. “I can’t imagine any other way. There’s always one person there to back up the other one.”
But it will be difficult to get everyone involved, with so many candidates at the position. The spring roster lists 10 running backs, including both tailbacks and fullbacks, with another coming in this summer (Rod Smith).
Dick Tressel said that the staff does it’s best to distribute the workload, but it’s ultimately up to the players to accept and adapt.
“You know what, they’re good players and good team members and good athletes. So I don’t think it’s going to be hard to keep them going full speed ahead,” he said. “Happy? I don’t know. But they’ll play the best they can play.”