July 22, 2013

The candidates to replace Carlos Hyde

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Replacing an all-conference caliber running back is difficult to do under any circumstance, but perhaps even more so when you're forced to do it on short notice. That, however, is the situation that Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team now reportedly find themselves in, after 2012 second-team All-Big Ten running back Carlos Hyde was dismissed from the Buckeyes after being named a person of interest in an alleged assault.

Having ran for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns as OSU raced to an undefeated record behind the nation's 10th-ranked rushing offense last season, Hyde figured to be a key cog in the 2013 Buckeyes' offense and quest for a national championship. Running back is a position of depth for Ohio State this season, but it remains to be seen whether or not any of the Buckeyes' remaining running backs will prove to be as capable as Hyde was a year ago.

Redshirt junior Rod Smith served as Hyde's primary backup last season, and even spent some time playing alongside him as well. The 6-foot-3, 238-pounder totaled 215 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries, and plays with a bruising style similar to the player whom he'll likely be called on to replace.

Smith has received his fair share of opportunities throughout his college career, but issues with holding onto the football have often kept him on the sideline. Now more than ever, the Fort Wayne, Ind. native will be asked to prove that he's capable of being a starting running back at Ohio State, and take advantage of the opportunity that's in front of him.

Should Smith not rise to the occasion, Meyer and his staff will likely turn to a pair of second-year players to replace their departed starter's production.

Sophomore Bri'onte Dunn came to Ohio State a year ago as a highly-touted recruit, but saw limited playing time due to a combination of Hyde's emergence and his own injuries. The Big Ten's Freshman of the Week following the Buckeyes' Nov. 3 win over Illinois, the Canton, Ohio native rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in 2012.

While he redshirted last season while recovering from a knee injury, freshman Warren Ball has certainly shown flashes throughout his two offseasons in Columbus. The former four-star prospect emerged from this past spring neck and neck with Dunn for the role of the Buckeyes' third running back, and could now enter the season as the team's primary backup thanks to Hyde's dismissal.

Dunn and Ball's battle for playing time also comes with the caveat that true freshman and four-star prospect Ezekiel Elliot is now on campus. Elliot is the first true running back that Meyer has recruited to Columbus and could now find himself in line for immediate playing time with one less player ahead of him on the Buckeyes' depth chart.

Another possible adjustment that could help offset the loss of Hyde doesn't come in the form of personnel, as much as it does in a change in OSU's offensive scheme.

With more capable athletes on this year's team, Meyer will look to utilize the 'Pivot' position that was popularized by Percy Harvin during his days at Florida. A hybrid between a wide receiver and a running back, the 'Pivot' typically lines up in the slot with the capability of receiving handoffs after being sent in pre-snap motion.

A running back in the first four years of his Ohio State career, fifth-year senior Jordan Hall has been lauded for his abilities in the 'Pivot' spot when he's been healthy over the past two offseasons. The Jeannette, Pa. native has rushed for 1,032 yards and six touchdowns over the course of his college career.

Should Hall prove ineffective or unable to remain healthy this season, true freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall could receive increased touches on offense, as both are thought to be ideal fits for the 'Pivot' position.

Regardless of the route the Buckeyes coaches take in replacing Hyde, it's hard to imagine one that will make the transition a seamless one, but they certainly have their share of options to pick from.


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