At a school where such bruising backs as Keith Byars, Eddie George and Chris Wells had starred, what could the relatively unimposing Dan Herron of Warren Harding bring to the table that would prove him deserving of the name "Boom"?
But now in his fourth year at OSU, Herron is continuing to prove that nickname is fitting. The junior's hard-running style has made him the Buckeyes' feature back in 2010, and Herron has become better and tougher to tackle as the leaves and changed and conference season has passed the halfway point.
"I just want to give it my all when I'm out there," he said of his style, "and show them that I'm capable of making plays with the ball in my hands."
Herron has excelled since the start of the Big Ten season, piling up 442 yards in that span on 87 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per try, while scoring eight touchdowns in five games.
That run started when he toted the rock 23 times for 95 yards and a game-clinching score at Illinois on a blustery day in which quarterback Terrelle Pryor injured his leg. Tasked with carrying the mail, Herron helped seal the game with his between-the-tackles running and earned the respect of his teammates in the process.
"That's what we want out of a back, and that's what we knew Boom brings to the game," wideout Dane Sanzenbacher said. "He was running motivated. He was running angry out there, actually, and that's what we want. We want tough backs in there who are going to get those tough yards."
Added center Michael Brewster, "He worked his butt off today and was lowering his shoulder and getting as many yards as he could, and you have to give a lot of credit to a guy like that."
With quotes like that coming from teammates, it's no wonder Herron is also a favorite of the coaching staff.
"We always talk about an impact player being someone that can just do their job, but they can raise everyone else up," head coach Jim Tressel said. "He just has a presence. We always talk about good leaders have what we call a sense of impending greatness – ‘If you stick with me, something great's going to happen.' Boom has that. Boom has that presence."
Herron was also one of the top performers in the loss at Wisconsin, running for 91 yards and two touchdowns, before becoming the straw that has stirred the drink in the last two games.
Ohio State has come out in the I-formation in the last two contests and run the ball right at Purdue and Minnesota on the way to blowout wins. Herron carried the ball on every play, five times for 45 yards, on the opening drive vs. Purdue on the way to a touchdown, then had 52 yards on the first two drives vs. Minnesota on the way to 17 carries, 114 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
"I think Boom got us started, which Boom has that ability to electrify the huddle and the room when he walks in it," Tressel said after the Purdue game.
The Minnesota contest was extra special for Herron, who topped the 100-yard mark for the first time. Previously, he had gotten above 90 yards five times in his career but had yet to hit the century mark.
"That has definitely been one of my goals, and it is a great honor to get 100 yards as an Ohio State running back," Herron said.
That production has helped Herron – who redshirted in 2007 before splitting carries his first two seasons – become a team leader, Tressel said.
"He just has that ability to lift up everyone. Now, you can't do that if you're not doing your job well though," Tressel said. "He happens to be doing his job. You can be an electric guy and really someone that people want to follow, but they'll stop following you if you don't produce, and Boom Herron produces."
Herron also has a nose for the end zone with 12 scores on the season and 25 in his 30 career games. Six times in his career, including four this year, he has crossed the goal line six times. With a strong finish, Herron could reach 20 touchdowns on the season, which would allow him to become the first Buckeye back to reach that mark since Eddie George had 24 in 1995.
Joining such a legend in Buckeye lore would be great, Herron said, but his main goal is to keep producing when called upon during the stretch run.
"I mean, Ohio State is known for running the ball, so you definitely want to keep that going," he said. "I just try to do my best when I have the opportunities to get the ball."