Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott hopes he's the answer.
Elliott is in a battle for the top spot with senior Rod Smith, sophomores Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball and newcomer Curtis Samuel. Elliott perhaps has the inside track on the job because of his efforts during his freshman campaign. The St. Louis (Mo.) Burroughs product appeared in 11 games and rushed for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That ranked him third about OSU tailbacks and first among non-seniors behind Hyde and Jordan Hall.
"It was good to get out there and get some experience, get out there and play in front of that many people and get the jitters out," Elliott said. "It was good to get my feet wet."
Elliott added that he believes it is too soon to consider himself the top back yet – a statement that running backs coach Stan Drayton later repeated himself. Even so, Elliott gained valuable experience last season. He did not get a head start as an prospect who enrolled in time for spring practice, but once he got to Columbus in the summer he was ready for action.
"I came in as a freshman not knowing much. I wasn't here in the spring (last year), so I just went in the fall with a blank mind – not knowing much of the offense," Elliott said. "Now I think I know pretty much the whole playbook like the back of my hand."
Elliott did not worry about making mistakes last season and let his work ethic speak for him, something that caught Drayton's attention quickly.
"The one thing about Ezekiel is that he walked through the door with an incredible work ethic, and that has sustained," Drayton said. "Now it's a matter of him taking his game to the next level, anticipating a little bit quicker and understanding defense a little bit more.
"So he still has a ways to go in his development, but he's definitely on track."
Elliott, who was listed at 218 pounds at the end of the 2013 season, said his body has changed heading into his second collegiate season. He told reporters he weighed in at 225, and despite the additional pounds, he felt faster.
"I'm a lot bigger. I'm a lot stronger," Elliott said. "I'm faster, and I know the playbook. That helps a lot."
Elliott reached the end zone three times last season, adding a receiving score to go with his pair of rushing TDs. His pass-catching ability is one things Elliott thinks he brings to the Buckeyes that his fellow running back contenders do not.
"I'm a very versatile back," Elliott said. "I can do a lot of things. I can run to the outside. I can run a tight zone (inside). I'm a great pass catcher out of the backfield. So I just think I bring a little versatility to the table."
Despite the competition among Elliott and his fellow tailbacks, the sophomore said the competition is friendly. Even so, he said he is going to do what it takes to establish himself.
"We all want it. It's everything to me, so I'm going to give it all I've got."