Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton said he asks a lot from his players.
Senior running back Jordan Hall and redshirt junior running back Carlos Hyde have proven themselves in the areas Drayton focuses on, but with both players injured, younger running back talent like freshman Bri`onte Dunn and sophomore Rod Smith will need to develop quickly.
And Drayton said the clock is ticking until OSU kicks off against California Saturday.
“Based on performance, last week was not very good,” Drayton said. “However, we wipe the slate clean every week. They have to have an unbelievable week at practice this week to earn their time on the field.”
Dunn had five rushes for 29 yards while Smith gained 10 yards on three attempts against Central Florida last week.
At this time last year, Dunn was in high school at Canton’s GlenOak where he ran for 5,479 yards in his career for the Eagles. His first ever action with OSU was against Miami (Ohio) and his career numbers now total 60 yards on 12 rushes and one touchdown.
Smith has more experience compared to Dunn, but not by much. Smith had 29 carries for 116 yards and one touchdown last season, though the biggest impact he had on a game might have been a fumble during a game against Toledo late in the fourth quarter last season. The Buckeyes, up 27-22 at the time, held on to win despite Smith’s fumble, but the player saw limited time after that game.
“It’s one thing getting your mind right to go to be a backup for third string tailback for a game. It’s another thing getting your mind right to be the guy that’s going to jog out there with the first offense,” said coach Urban Meyer during a Monday press conference. “Whoever has the best (practices on) Tuesday and Wednesday is going to line up at tailback.”
After Hyde suffered a strained MCL during Saturday’s game against UCF, junior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown saw some time in the backfield, carrying the ball twice for 33 yards during the game.
Drayton does not see him spending much time in the backfield.
“(Brown’s) a wide receiver, you know, I don’t want to send the wrong message out there,” Drayton said. “He is the wide receiver and we need him to be productive on the perimeter.”
Brown ran the ball in high school and said he would like to play the position again but is supportive of the players on the depth chart.
“I think that anyone of our running backs should be able to go in there,” Brown said. “If coach Meyer wants to use me carrying the ball, I’m fine with it.”
Another player that can relieve some pressure from Dunn and Smith is senior fullback Zach Boren.
“We ask him to do, from a job description stand point, probably more so than everyone else in that offense,” Drayton said. “He’s a young man that can get us four to five yards on an inside zone play and turn around and block a five technique.”
In his first three seasons with OSU, Boren was mainly used as a blocker, taking a total of one carry for two yards and zero touchdowns.
In the first two games he already has nine attempts for 26 yards and his first career rushing touchdown.
There is also hope in Buckeyes camp because Hall will return to practice this week.
Hall, who has been out since late June while recovering from a foot injury after stepping on a piece of glass, has been medically cleared to play.
His return to practice, however, doesn’t mean fans should expect to see the running back on the field Saturday. Drayton said they’re still taking it day-by-day at practice with Hall.
“We’re going to get out there and see where his conditioning level is. He has not had contact and we’re going to see how his body reacts to contact a little bit and we’ll just take it from there.”
Even if Hall can’t play Saturday, Drayton said he feels with the talent currently available, there will still be a solid backfield.
“I feel as though if Zach Boren continues to progress along with Bri`onte Dunn and Rod Smith, those younger backs progress, I think we can be solid there,” he said. “There’s some things that they cannot do that Philly Brown may be able to do.”