Starter Chris Wells, who ran for 1,609 yards last season, is obviously a good start, but there is more to the Ohio State backfield than the burly junior.
Behind Wells, who goes by the nickname “Beanie”, are three scholarship players all itching to give him a break at any time.
The question as camp winds down, though, is who would be first in line to do so?
OSU running backs coach Dick Tressel has plenty of options.
Does he go with senior Maurice Wells, a smaller and quicker option than the starter?
Or sophomore Brandon Saine, Ohio’s high school 100-meter record holder, who combines his sprinter’s speed with a stout build and soft hands to be a multifaceted weapon?
Then there is Boom Herron, a redshirt freshman who started turning heads with his work on the scout team last year and continued to do so with the regular offense during spring drills and preseason camp.
While fans and reporters like to concentrate on the depth chart, Tressel apparently is not worried about it, at least not as of late August. He just wants to see depth.
“What we learned this camp is you better have a stable full, because in a moment the thing can change,” Tressel said. “It only takes one bump on the head or on the knee and all of a sudden the group of tailbacks is all different.”
As an example he pointed to the jersey scrimmage held at Ohio Stadium Aug. 16 when walk-on Joe Gantz played the most snaps of all the tailbacks because Beanie Wells (coach’s decision) and Saine (leg injury) did not play and Herron suffered a minor injury late.
“The pecking order doesn’t have to be established for a while,” Tressel said. “The pecking order right now is, ‘Hey, be smart enough to get all those guys ready to play at the highest level they can play and you’ll have a pretty good football team.”
Tressel said he expects both Saine and Herron to be 100 percent healthy before the team’s season-opener Aug. 30 against Youngstown State, but he is glad to have so many options.
Saine gave glimpses of what he can do as a runner and a receiver last season, but his position coach expects the time he missed during camp to prevent him from starting the season in sync with the rest of the offense.
Maurice Wells and Herron are expected to pick up the slack, however, with Herron anticipating making his regular-season collegiate debut.
“Boom is clearly in our plans,” Tressel said. “Dan Herron is a good football player, a tough and good running back. Even at the Ohio State University, you don’t have so many guys that you can’t plan on using the good players. You have to be ready to get all of them ready to contribute, and we’ll do that with Maurice and Boom and Brandon along with Beanie and then everybody feels really good about it.”
The starter has no worries about who replaces him when he needs a rest. He even sees a bit of himself in Herron, who is listed at just 190 pounds but runs hard between the tackles.
“Boom is a heck of a player,” Beanie Wells said. “He’s a hard-nosed guy. He’s a little guy, but he runs like he’s about 250 pounds.
“All of those guys worked very hard this offseason. They are great running backs and becoming even better as the days go on.”