Total scholarship players: 5
Average age: Sophomore
Average star ranking: 4.0
Total returning starts: 6
Notable stats: 344 carries for 1,640 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns
After years of suspect depth at this position, Ohio State looks more than solid at running back for both this and future seasons.
The 2012 campaign should be an interesting one as a group of players recruited to play in the more pro-style offense of Jim Tressel and Jim Bollman mold themselves into Urban Meyer’s newly installed spread.
Jordan Hall, the only senior and the only one weighing less than 200 pounds, was listed as the starter coming out of spring practice but figures to play a variety of roles. At 5-9, he is small enough to hide behind blockers and can be effective between the tackles, but he is at his best on the perimeter. Knowing this, the staff plans to use him in a variety of roles, including as a pass catcher both out of the backfield and the slot.
That means Carlos Hyde, a 235-pound junior listed as Hall’s primary backup, can probably figure to see extensive playing time. He is a bruiser but possesses excellent speed and surprising shiftiness for a man his size. He was also seen frequently catching passes out of the backfield during spring ball, so he is more than simply a power back.
How many touches will be left for sophomore Rod Smith and freshman Brionte Dunn remains to be seen, but both showed enough potential in the spring to be counted upon should Hyde go down or Hall end up playing primarily in the slot.
Dunn in particular is an intriguing prospect after Meyer talked him into honoring a verbal commitment despite concerns regarding the change in offensive scheme. The former Canton (Ohio) GlenOak star impressed the coaching staff with his work and commitment in winter conditioning and carried that into spring.
Warren Ball, a four-star prospect from Columbus DeSales, joins in the fall as another power runner who will look to adapt to the spread. He got his first taste of that sort of thing during the North-South All-Star game at Ohio Stadium in April and looked comfortable both catching swing passes out of the backfield and looking for creases on zone runs.
With only Hall graduating, the next couple of years should look similar if everyone else chooses to stick around. Hyde, Smith and Dunn could form the best trio of power backs in the country in 2013 with the latter pair still able to spend another year together in 2014. Ball is something of a wild card at this point since we have not seen him in a college setting yet, but he was a highly sought recruit long before his senior season as a Stallion and much is expected of him.
Scheduled to join the big fellas returning in 2013 are Ezekiel Elliott and Jalin Marshall, a pair of speedsters who verbally committed in April and January, respectively.
The 6-0, 195-pound Elliott has been praised as a major threat to go the distance any time he finds a crease while Marshall is considered the top prospect in the state of Ohio.
A quarterback for Middletown, the 6-0, 195-pound Marshall could play a variety of roles once he dons the scarlet and gray, but he is electric with the ball in his hands regardless of how he receives it.
Current status: Strong
Future status: Bright
Total scholarship players: 2
Average age: Senior
Average star rating: 3.0
Total returning starts: 32
Notable stats: 23 receptions for 169 yards and a touchdown.
The change in offense has brought a change in how some positions are defined, but the coaching staff promises not to let power cease being a part of the Ohio State attack. That should ensure a continuing role for Zach Boren and Adam Homan, both of whom are seniors this fall.
Boren has been a starter since game one of his freshman season, and he figures to see an expanded role this year after losing about a dozen pounds in the offseason. That prompted Meyer to say the 246-pounder is a candidate to do more than throw crushing blocks – something he has excelled at throughout his career – but also catch and carry the ball this fall. He provides an interesting option as a potential power back in short yardage packages and could be a mismatch for linebackers in the passing game.
Homan has spent his career in Boren’s shadow but also brings enough athleticism to surprise opposing defenses when his number is called.
The installation of the spread prompted a move of the fullbacks and tight ends into the same position group meeting room, but Ohio State continues to list fullback as a unique position on the depth chart.
None are committed yet for the class of 2013, but the coaching staff has said it will continue to recruit power players of both the fullback and tight end body type for the future, so that could still change.
Current status: Strong
Future status: Endangered