OSU Still Committed To Rushing Attack

Stan Drayton has become all too familiar with the perception that Ohio State won't run the football as efficiently as it has in the past. Though the Buckeyes offense may look differently this year, Drayton knows the Buckeyes are a run-first team.

Despite being committed to Ohio State for months, Bri'onte Dunn wasn't sure he still wanted to be a Buckeye shortly after Urban Meyer was hired.

That's because Dunn was under the impression the Buckeyes would no longer be interested in having an offense dedicated to moving the football on the ground with their running backs. Stan Drayton has become all too familiar with that thought process.

"We hear that all the time," said Drayton, who will coach the team's running backs under Meyer. "Some schools even try to negatively recruit against us by saying we don't like to run the football. It's just a matter of educating kids when we speak to them."

Dunn, of course, eventually honored his commitment once Meyer showed him film of how he envisions his offense. Now a freshman with the Buckeyes after enrolling early this spring, Dunn is now one of four running backs aiming to change that stigma.

Ohio State, after all, is a school that has always been about running first. Under former head coach Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes had seven different running backs eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark. One of Ohio State's most recognizable players is former running back Eddie George, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1995.

While at three different programs – Bowling Green, Utah and Florida – Meyer never had a running back do the same thing. Drayton, who coached running backs for four years with Meyer at Florida, said it was more of a matter of getting the ball to an array of playmakers suited for different types of strategies.

When looking at Meyer's time at Florida specifically, the most efficient running back in six seasons was Jeff Demps, who rushed 99 times for 745 yards in 2009.

The team's two biggest playmakers were quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin. Both players were known for making dynamic plays rushing, but neither did it in the traditional way.

"The power runner that we had was Tim Tebow, so when that's the main power runner you have it kind of limits you," Drayton said. "We feel as though we have the chance to be more versatile here. We've still got to go out there and recruit some playmakers but with the talent level we have there's a chance this offense could be more versatile than it ever has."

Along with Dunn, Ohio State will turn to Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith to carry the load out of the backfield this season. But Drayton says the team will get the ball in their playmakers' hands, which could mean increased touches out of the backfield for wide receiver Philly Brown.

If spring practice is any indication of how the offense will look next year, Hall isn't a likely candidate to be Meyer's first 1,000-yard rusher. Though he's the No. 1 tailback on the depth chart, he has often been split out because he's most effective in space with the ball in his hands.

"This offense looks a lot different than any Ohio State offense in the past," Hall said. "We are going to run the football, but it isn't always going to look the same."

Hyde has been the top performer at running back this spring and his big frame makes him the ideal candidate for the power running back both Drayton and Meyer are looking for. If Hyde becomes Ohio State's most consistent playmaker, he could be the running back Meyer's offenses have typically lacked.

"I guarantee you, it's just a matter of us getting out there and showing what we are capable of doing in this offense," Drayton said. "This is a run-first offense. We run power just like a pro-style offense runs power, we just kind of dress it up a little bit.

"What Urban Meyer did at Florida worked, so the core of what we did there is still intact. Now we're adjusting to our talent. That's what this offense is designed to do, adjust to our skill set."

The coaching staff is still in the process of analyzing which players are worth conforming to, but Drayton has made it seem as if the options are plentiful. Along with the running backs, the Buckeyes also have options in tight end Jake Stoneburner, fullback Zach Boren and wide receiver Devin Smith.

This offense has the chance to be efficient on the ground. The running back is just going to have to make plays, much like George did in 1997. "Eddie George would have had 2,000 yards in this offense," Drayton said. "If he won the Heisman Trophy back in those days, we would have put him in position to win the Heisman Trophy in this offense, too."

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