USA Today Sports

How RB, offense narratives could be coming full circle for Urban Meyer's offense at Ohio State

A look at Ohio State's offense reveals an interesting dilemma -- or a major opportunity.

So, Urban Meyer finally seems to have shaken a particular knock that accompanied him to Columbus.  

What was that? Oh, the one about how he had never had a 1,000-yard rusher at running back.  

OK, maybe “shaken” isn’t  strong enough word. Meyer has obliterated the notion he doesn’t know what to do with a big back by logging four straight seasons with a running back who blew through triple digits into the 1K world.  

But this is college football, where narrative is king, so naturally there is a new concern out there.  

Does Meyer have a bell-cow back to replace Ezekiel Elliott?  

This is an ironic development because one of the candidates to replace Elliott, the 2015 Big Ten Offensive Player and Running Back of the Year, is Bri’onte Dunn. 

A five-star prospect from Canton GlenOak, Dunn gave an early commitment to Ohio State when Jim Tressel was still the head coach.  

It wasn’t hard to see a back like Dunn following in the footsteps of a Wells, be it Jonathan or Beanie, as a power back for the Scarlet and Gray.  

But when Tressel left, it opened a void into which Brady Hoke tried to squeeze with Michigan.  

Then — before Meyer had coached a game at Ohio State — many discussions centered on style of play. Michigan would be hard and Ohio State would be soft, some said. He would fit better in Maize and Blue, lining up in the I formation and following a fullback and a pulling guard to the promised land.  

Meyer ultimately convinced Dunn to remain a member of his first Ohio State signing class, though, and those concerns about what type of a system the coach would run now look laughable in hindsight.  

But it has not been Dunn carrying the load for Ohio State. After Carlos Hyde emerged in 2012 as the No. 1 back Meyer lacked for so long, Dunn was passed on the depth chart by Elliott and lost carries to slot slasher Curtis Samuel as the No. 2 back last year.  

Now it appears Dunn is in line for a larger role as a senior, but will he be the lead back? Will there even be a feature back?  

There seem to be some tantalizing options and Ohio State has a coach who has proven he knows how to use them on the way to a national championship.  

With a runner as talented and complete as Elliott, maximizing snaps makes plenty of sense, but it’s a whole new world in 2016.  

He might finally have his Percy Harvin in the form of Samuel, but could Dunn be his DeShawn Wynn?  

Only time will tell. Redshirt freshman Mike Weber and true frosh Antonio Williams seem poised to have something to say about it, and Samuel may be more pure running back than Harvin.  

While Dunn did not play in the spring game, Weber and Williams made their Ohio Stadium debuts. Weber in particular looked like a potential game-breaker, though perhaps not in Elliott’s class. 

We will have to wait until the fall to see what the final version of Dunn in scarlet and gray looks like, but this collection of talent combined with a quarterback who is adept at running the option opens up some intriguing strategic choices.  

While Ohio State has had a bad habit of getting a little too one-note at times over the past few years (QB run left, RB run right, repeat), there are many things one can do out of Meyer’s spread.  

The triple option with a player like Dunn as the dive back has always appealed to me, especially if they can add the ability to pitch it to a player like Samuel or Dontre Wilson or Parris Campbell in the open field.  

We’ve seen this on very rare occasions at Ohio State, but I’ve always wondered why we haven’t seen it more.  

There were a couple of related wrinkles late last season, so it will be interesting to see if Meyer and his offensive braintrust expand on those this fall.  

Also worth noting: Tim Beck used the diamond formation at Nebraska it seemed much more than Ohio State has under Meyer, so there is some knowledge of that system in the offensive meeting rooms.  

Buckeye Sports Top Stories