Fortunately for the Ohio State football team, sophomore Bri'onte Dunn had the right attitude during an unexpected redshirt season in 2013. Dunn was left on the sideline last year after earning playing time as a true freshman, blocked behind seniors Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall and being stuck behind fellow underclassmen in Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith and Warren Ball.
"It was hard at first, but I really understand why I redshirted," Dunn said Thursday. "I was on the scout (team) getting better each and every day."
Dunn will be back on active duty this fall. Whether or not he will be carrying for football with any regularity remains to be seen, but becoming the No. 1 tailback in Ohio State's running back stable is his main goal this spring.
With Hyde exhausting his eligibility, there are plenty of carries to be claimed this fall. Dunn is battling Elliott, Smith, Ball and freshman Curtis Samuel during the spring. Elliott, the leading returning in terms of carries and rushing yards among the quintet, might have the inside track for the No. 1 spot, but Dunn has flashed during practices open to the media. On Thursday, Dunn was the recipient of a J.T. Barrett shovel pass that went for a long gain.
"I was looking at J.T. and J.T. had a defender right in front of him," Dunn said. "He pitched it to me and I just went with it with my instincts."
Running backs coach Stan Drayton praised the progress of the Canton (Ohio) GlenOak product.
"I'm starting to see Bri'onte starting to act like he knows what the hell is going on, excuse my language," Drayton said. "He's learned the offense and he's starting to play fast. We're starting to see the things that Bri'onte already had within himself but is now coming through in his execution.
"It's just a matter of him becoming a student of the game, learning the game. Now he's playing it fast."
The opportunity to battle for the top tailback slot has energized Dunn, who said he believes there is no solid depth chart among the running backs.
"They take everybody seriously," Dunn said. "It's all equal right now, and everybody is trying to go for the spot."
Dunn said despite sitting out last year he never seriously considered transferring. As for last year's difficulties, he cited a slow start that put him behind his teammates as to why he was the odd man out of the rotation.
Drayton said it is possible Dunn's hunger waned during last season, but it's back in full force this spring.
"(Redshirting) is tough, especially after playing your freshman year," Drayton said. "You ask him to take a step back in his development and get in the weight room and get stronger, get his body right.
"He did just that, and now he has another opportunity. He's hungry again."