Drew Thurman (7:03 pm)
The last few years may always be know always the "Beanie Era" in Ohio State football lore. Buckeye fans got a chance to witness one of the greatest stiff arm runners in recent history, who combined his physical running with the ability to take one to house at any moment. In fact to go in an do the numbers for the rushing game over the past two seasons is pretty remarkable. Beanie has averaged 43.9 percent of the carries over the past two seasons (junior year - 49.5%; senior year - 38.3%), and without injuries probably would have had even a larger affect in that statistical category. On top of that Pryor consumed many of Beanie's carries in '08, having 139 on the year, and without those carries Beanie had 51.6 percent of the carries for the team.
As the Buckeyes look ahead to the 2009-10 season, fans quickly have to come to the reality that this will not happen again. The Buckeyes have a whole host of running backs, and while obviously some may see more carries than others, its going to be a committee job rather than a solo act. Many teams have had a lot of success doing this (*cough* USC *cough*), and Buckeye fans can relax knowing there is a lot of talent in the Buckeye backfield. So let's take a look:
The Buckeyes are welcoming in two extremely talented running backs in Jamaal Berry and Carlos Hyde, and this has caused many fans to forget about Herron. As just a redshirt freshman in 2008 he had 439 yards with six touchdowns, and averaged 4.9 a carry. Boom did miss some time with a concussion, but ended the season with strong showings against Michigan and Texas. At 5-10 nearly 200 pounds he doesn't look like a power back, but Boom proved last season that he was as physical as anyone on the roster. It's hard to believe that anyone will get more carries over Herron, even though there is some serious talent behind him. He has great vision, runs tough, and he now has a year of experience. I don't see him as a thirty carry guy like Beanie, but look for Herron to be the primary option.
Saine has gone from potential star to perennial backup pretty much overnight. He looked like Beanie's replacement as a freshman, but after a series of injuries has never had the burst that was once his MO. There is a lot of talk that Saine will make a permanent move over to the fullback position, but regardless Saine is going to see some carries. I throw him on this list because I feel that this is Saine's last real shot of decent contribution. He is versatile (like his TE/FB play in the '07 National Championship), and I think he gets a chance to prove something early this season before things are officially handed over to the freshmen.
Berry, a top 5 running back by ESPN, has Buckeye fans very excited. He possesses a solid combo of both size and speed, and has all the physical tools to play early on for Ohio State. Add to this that the Buckeyes are relatively inexperienced at running back, and it appears as if Berry will get his share of carries in '09. He also bursts through the hole very quickly, and Tressel always loves to give playing time to guys who hit the whole fast!
While Hyde has taken the backseat to Berry in recruiting circles, I would not downplay what his role could be for the Buckeyes in '09. I have made it clear on multiple occasions that I really like Hyde because of his versatility, and that he can block and catch the ball out of the backfield on top of being a power runner. Mix all of this with the fact that he has the type of frame (6-1, 225) that looks like a Big Ten runner. Berry obviously has big play material written all over him, but watch for Hyde to get a bulk of carries based off of versatility and power.
All in all:
The reality is that the Buckeyes are going to be running the ball by committee this season. Until the summer and early falls roll around no one knows what the percentages might be, but my gut feeling says that at least three of these young men are going to be seeing some considerate playing time. Of course many of you are asking why I left Jordan Hall off the list, but at least as a freshman I do not see him offering any intangibles that these other running backs don't.
Anyways, they may not compare to the four horsemen (pictured above), but it is exciting to see the raw talent these four offer on paper.
What do you think? How are the carries going to be distributed?