Breaking Down The RB Race

Ohio State will need to replace one of the most productive running backs in program history in Carlos Hyde, but there are four backs battling for the ball this spring. We take a quick look at each with comments from running backs coach Stan Drayton.

Running backs coach Stan Drayton admits that the Buckeyes, who watched Carlos Hyde wrest control of the running back role each of the past two years, might not need a bell cow back in 2014.

With four contenders in camp -- not to mention Curtis Samuel, who is suited for the "H" role but is meeting with the running backs, and incoming speedster Parris Campbell -- the Buckeyes will have a lot of options.

And with senior Roderick Smith and sophomores Ezekiel Elliott, Warren Ball and Brionte Dunn in the mix, Drayton will have options all season long.

"All bring something different to the table," Drayton said. "They all have a different style. They all have strengths and weaknesses. They can all help this football team. We're just looking for consistency."

BSB takes a quick look at each veteran back as we pass the midway point of the spring.

Rod Smith
Size: 6-3, 231
Stats: Ran six times for 19 yards last year but has 67 career carries for 350 yards (5.2 average) and four touchdowns. Has also caught five passes for 82 yards and a score, a 51-yard snag vs. Illinois in 2012.
Breakdown: Fans have been waiting for Smith, a top-10 back in the 2010 class, to break out, and Drayton has said he's finally growing into his big frame and long arms. Smith has said he wants the job but is fine doing whatever is best for the team, including serving as a leader. If he's ready, he could be a suitable replacement for Hyde given his big frame and physical style, as Meyer likes what Hyde provided as far as his ability to pick up tough yards. What could hurt him is a young offensive line, which might force OSU to hit up the perimeter more often in the running game.

Ezekiel Elliott
Size: 6-0, 225
Stats: Became the Buckeyes' No. 2 back a season ago, rushing 30 times for 267 yards and two touchdowns while catching three passes for 23 yards and a score. His biggest performance came in the contest vs. Florida A&M when he ran for 162 yards on just 14 carries.
Breakdown: Elliott was everything the Buckeyes needed a season ago, working into the rotation and even covering kicks when asked. But his spring hasn't quite been as rosy, as offensive coordinator Tom Herman said last week he's still been practicing like a freshman. Perhaps a little complacency for a young guy who immediately worked into the rotation isn't a surprise, and there's no reason to think Elliott won't make a big step forward the rest of the way. Elliott is a powerful runner with good slashing skills so he can get the job done both inside and on the edge if need be.

Brionte Dunn
Size: 6-0, 216
Stats: Dunn played in 11 games a season ago, rushing 25 times for 133 yards and two scores before taking a redshirt a season ago.
Breakdown: Dunn was a must-get five-star recruit when Urban Meyer first arrived and showed some skills as a true freshman but he was caught in the numbers crunch a season ago. After running for more than 3,600 yards his final two years of high school at Canton GlenOak to earn first-team All-Ohio honors, there's no doubting Dunn's skills. His longest run in 2012 was just 13 yards but he has shown the ability to take it the distance this spring. He was a horse in high school but might be counted on to be more of a home-run hitter this season, and Drayton says he's starting to play much faster.

Warren Ball
Size: 6-1, 224
Stats: Ball redshirted in 2012 thanks in part to a foot injury and got into 11 games a season ago, carrying 13 times for 76 yards.
Breakdown: A four-star member of the class of '12, Ball has overcome adversity to become a big option for the Buckeyes. For a big guy, he has breakaway speed, but he also has power after coming out of Columbus DeSales and its Wing-T offense. Ball has received limited reps at times in practices throughout his career thanks to injury and depth but always seems to make plays when given the chance.

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