Which Buckeye RB Will Step Up This Spring?
Before 2013, Urban Meyer had never coached a running back with a 1,000-yard season. Hyde smashed that mark, running for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs. It should also be noted that he racked up those numbers in only 11 games, as he sat out the first three of the season due to suspension.
Unfortunately for Buckeye nation, Hyde will be taking his 240-pound frame and underrated speed to the NFL in 2014. So now, Meyer and OC Tom Herman have to find somebody to fill the huge hole he's leaving in the backfield behind Miller.
When Hyde was out at the beginning of the season, Jordan Hall took on most of the workload. However, he also was a senior and will not be back in Columbus next season. Luckily, running back is probably the position the Buckeyes are deepest at, and they have a lot of talented players to evaluate in spring practice this year.
Although there will be plenty of Buckeye fans who will call for Dontre Wilson to line up in the backfield in 2014, there is zero chance he gets the nod as Carlos Hyde's replacement.
He has a very specific Percy Harvin-esque role in this offense as the hybrid receiver-back who lines up all over the field with the intention of getting him the ball in space (less popularly known as the "Pivot" position). At 175 pounds (and that's probably soaking wet), he doesn't have the size to be an every down back, especially not in the Big Ten.
The guy who really needs to have a strong spring is sophomore Ezekiel Elliott. In his limited opportunities last season, Elliott showed a lot of explosiveness and agility, as well as a good receiving-ability out of the backfield.
With a full offseason to improve his skill set and better understand Urban's system, Elliott is who I believe will ultimately win the job this spring. Although he may still be young and a little raw, he's clearly the most talented back on Ohio State's roster, and he will be given every opportunity to shine during practice.
If he can make the necessary strides this spring and take the next few steps in development, it will make life a lot easier for the Ohio State offense to transition into life without Hyde in 2014.
However, there are a couple other running backs who may give Elliott a run for his money.
Senior Rod Smith has the most experience of any of the running backs who will have a shot to win the job this spring. He's played incrementally (53 total carries) over the past two seasons, but has not done a whole lot to impress the coaches with the opportunities that he has been given. A good spring may be enough to get back in good favor with the coaching staff.
Redshirt sophomore Bri'onte Dunn showed flashes of his potential during his true freshman season back in 2012, scoring two touchdowns in the two games he played in. After redshirting last year, Dunn looks to show more consistency this spring in hopes to earn some carries in 2014.
Ultimately, this is Elliott's job to lose, and as long as he holds up his end of the bargain in spring ball, I fully expect him to be lining up behind Miller for a vast majority of the snaps this fall.