Not only has Dontre Wilson – Scout's No. 10 running back in the last recruiting process – been a key part of the team's recent offensive explosion, but fellow freshman Ezekiel Elliott has showed plenty of potential to be a future star as well.
The St. Louis native, Scout's ninth-ranked running back a season ago, has impressed not just with the ball in his hands but while playing special teams. In the last game at Purdue, Elliott laid out Purdue kick return man Raheem Mostert with a huge hit.
"That reverse is something we practiced against all week. We were ready for it," Elliott said before being asked if he had ever hit someone like that before. "Nah, it felt pretty good."
The hit delivered shades of Brian Hartline, who as a freshman in 2006 knocked Indiana return man Marcus Thigpen out of a game with a crushing blow. Hartline went on to star for the Buckeyes before making it in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, who he currently leads in receptions.
When asked whether he enjoyed his first career receiving touchdown, scored late in the first half of the blowout win vs. Purdue, or the tackle more, Elliott had a quick answer.
"Definitely the tackle on the kickoff," he said. "That's just something that I don't really get to do anymore. In high school I could play both sides. Now I think that's my first tackle of the season."
Elliott knows special teams are emphasized at OSU, as head coach Urban Meyer is fond of saying that a young player earns his stripes in the kicking game. So while it's fun for fans to watch hits like Elliott's – and fun for Elliott to deliver them, clearly – plays like those will only get him more chances with the ball in his hand.
He's been pretty good in those situations already. Paced by a career-high 162-yard outing in the Florida A&M game, Elliott has 29 carries on the season for 255 yards – a solid 8.8-yard average – with two touchdowns while adding three catches.
"I have to give all the glory to God," he said. "I just have to keep working every day on the field."
A good mix of both power and speed at 6-0, 218 pounds, Elliott sits fifth on the team in rushing yards behind a pair of quarterbacks in Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton as well as backs Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall. Given the depth the Buckeyes boast at running back – a list that also includes Wilson, Roderick Smith, Warren Ball and the redshirting Brionte Dunn – Elliott's freshman year production is impressive.
"I just came here to compete," Elliott said. "I didn't come out here to get an easy ride. I know to get on the field I have to work my hardest. I have good guys in front of me and great guys behind me. I just have to keep working."
Being able to catch the ball and make a play, just like he did against Purdue, is also something Elliott brings to the table.
"I had to make one guy miss and finish the play," he said. "It's just something we work on every day, getting yards after the catch. It's something emphasized every day by Coach Drayton. We always finish our runs, and it carried over."