Running back is a position of much interest for the Ohio State football team this summer. Carlos Hyde rushed for over 1,500 yards last season for Ohio State. He has since graduated and been selected in the second round of the NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers.
The Buckeyes have a plethora of talent at the running back position, but no clear replacement for Hyde as the starter. There are many possible candidates to take the job, so lets get right down to it.
Ezekiel Elliot: 6-foot-0, 225 pounds, Sophomore, St. Louis, Missouri
Elliot got limited playing time as a freshman, but he shined when he was given the chance. He averaged 8.1 yards per carry and displayed both speed and strength while carrying the football. He entered the spring as the leading candidate to replace Carlos Hyde and continues to lead the way entering the summer.
Rod Smith: 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, RS Senior, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Smith is a big, bruising back who enjoys lowering his shoulder and running over the defense. This is his last year of eligibility, so he will do whatever it takes to earn playing time this season. He has received limited touches each of his last three seasons with the Buckeyes, but has proven to be a reliable and efficient back. He is the running back most likely to beat out Elliot if that were to happen.
Bri’onte Dunn: 6-foot-0, 216 pounds, RS Sophomore, Canton, Ohio
Dunn is coming off a redshirt season as a sophomore and has a lot to prove. He saw limited touches as a freshman and was stashed last year because of the Buckeyes’ great depth at the position. Now, Dunn gets another chance to see the field, and he has been working hard to improve his game and compete for the starting job. He has the physical tools to be a great back, and a much improved knowledge of the offense. Look for Bri’onte to get a solid amount of touches this season.
Warren Ball: 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, RS Sophomore, Columbus, Ohio
Ball saw very limited playing time as a freshman. He has a similar build and running style as that of Rod Smith. Smith will compete for the starting job and see the field a lot this season, so look for Ball to play more of a backup roll. He will get his chance to shine for the Buckeyes, it just isn’t going to be this season.
Dontre Wilson: 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, Sophomore, DeSoto, Texas
Wilson has already proven to be an invaluable asset to this Buckeyes team. He performed extremely well as a freshman, racking up 250 rushing yards and 210 receiving. He averaged 8.1 yards per rush and 9.5 yards per reception. He was a key playmaker for the Buckeyes in 2013, and should play an even bigger roll this season.
Curtis Samuel: 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Freshman, Brooklyn, New York
Samuel joins the Buckeyes this season as a four star recruit. He is small and fast, much like Dontre Wilson, and may be used similarly. Look for him to redshirt this season simply because of the Buckeyes’ depth at running back, but should he suit up, he will be a big playmaker for Ohio State.
My Prediction: Ezekiel Elliot will win the starting job, but Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn will each get a lot of touches. The 2014 Buckeyes will have a “backfield by committee” rather than one star running back doing the bulk of the work. Warren Ball will see the field early on in the season as well. Dontre Wilson will continue being used as a wildcard back; rushing, catching screens, and even lining up as a receiver. Curtis Samuel will most likely red shirt this season, but he will play a similar roll as Dontre for future Buckeye squads.