Cody Cousino / Photo editor
After one season as the Ohio State’s football team’s wide receiver coach, Stan Drayton is the Buckeyes’ running backs coach, returning to the position he once played as a three-time Division III All-American at Allegheny College.
In his first season under coach Urban Meyer, Drayton faces the task of replacing the team’s top running back from last season, Daniel “Boom” Herron, who ran for 672 yards in just eight games.
Drayton won’t have Herron to work with, but the team returns three running backs who combined for 1,090 rushing yards last season.
Carlos Hyde, a rising junior, ran for 566 yards this past season. Rising senior Jordan Hall ran for 408 yards as a junior. Additionally, rising redshirt sophomore Rod Smith ran for 116 yards in his first season.
OSU’s stable of running backs also includes freshman Bri’onte Dunn, who enrolled at OSU in January and is participating in spring practices.
Drayton said all four of the players are competing for playing time.
“It’s open competition right now,” Drayton said. “We’re just trying to see who’s going to separate themselves. Nowadays, you got to prepare at least three or four (running backs) to make it through an entire season anyway, so all of these guys are preparing to get game-ready. As far as me setting the depth chart right now, I like to leave it open so these guys can continue to compete throughout the spring.”
Hall, who led the Buckeyes with 1,275 all-purpose yards last season, is expected by some to be the leader of the OSU running game.
Drayton said the coaching staff will use Hall in a variety of ways this season.
“We’re going to play into Jordan Hall’s strengths,” Drayton said. “He’s a guy who can be a versatile player for us.”
Drayton said he expects Hall to contribute as a receiver this season, but added that he thinks all the running backs should do so.
“He’s very, very capable,” Drayton said of Hall’s receiving abilities. “We may put a little bit more on Jordan’s plate, but all of my backs are going to have to get out there, get lined up at wide receiver, recognize coverages and play out there.”
Hall said he is uncertain how he will be used in the offense this year, but said he is looking forward to playing in the offense implemented by this year’s new coaching staff.
“I don’t know really what my role is yet, but I just know that the offense is more zone reads, bubble screens, screens … just getting in open space,” Hall said. “I like being in space, and this is the perfect offense.”
Drayton said he has been very impressed with Hall’s maturity this spring.
“I’ve seen an unbelievable change,” Drayton said. “The leadership and the toughness, both in the weight room and on the field, that was already there, but he’s taken it to another level.”
Drayton said he also has big expectations for Hyde this season.
“Carlos’s progression is going to be very significant to our run game,” Drayton said. “We need Carlos to take his game to another level so he can contribute to this football team. He’s too talented not to.”
Hyde was not made available for comment.
Drayton said he expects Smith to have a bigger role this fall.
“I’m very confident that (Smith) is going to make an impact for this football team,” Drayton said.
Drayton also said he has high expectations for Dunn.
“I think his future is going to be really, really bright around here,” Drayton said.
Hall was asked whether he thought opposing defenses would be able to stop the OSU offense this fall.
“Not if we execute,” Hall replied.
OSU will kickoff the 2012 Spring Game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.