After watching the performance by the Ohio State running backs without Maurice Clarett, I have to alter my prediction for the season. Originally, I thought this was an 11-1 or 12-0 team with the only real obstacle being trying to beat Michigan three times in a row and twice in a row at the Big House, but now I think 10-2 is a good season since in my opinion, the backs look to me like they will not be able to bring what Clarett brought.
I thought RB was a priority two need to begin with, considering that there were only three backs recruited as backs on the roster as well as and the likelihood that Clarett was leaving no later than his junior year (plus I was never sold on the back-up situation begin with). Now, I think there is an argument for RB to be recruited like the offensive line, which I see as a priority one need (I define a "priority one need" as a position that needs multiple players and that needs quality talent that can play as freshmen, and if that need is not filled, there will be an immediate impact on the team). If not for the commitments of Erik Haw and Antonio Pittman, I would go ahead and slap a priority one on the RBs, but with them, the need isn't as great.
Erik Haw may quickly end any argument about what position he plays. He is off to a great start, with over 400 yards rushing in his first two games and has carried the ball 45 times. He is showing himself to be that workhorse tailback, like former Buckeye Eddie George, who can carry the ball many times and only gets stronger as the defense wears down. I don't have any numbers on Pittman, but he has not disappointed. I still, however, would very much like to see a third back in this class. Here is a look at the players I think still have a shot at locking down that third spot.
Delbert Ferguson, 6-2, 230, Warren Harding. A specialist came in and looked at Ferguson's hamstring and ended any questions about the mysterious injury. He was hurt. He did not play until last Friday night and ran for 85 yards out of a split back set with Richard Davis. In that game, he played some RB and some FB, looking like the old Delbert at both positions.
Gary Russell, 5-11, 195, Columbus Walnut Ridge. Russel had 188 yards in three quarters of work last Friday. An outstanding runner, Russell dropped 20 lbs to increase his speed, and he has run under 4.4 at least once since the weight loss. Grades are going to tell the tale with him.
Dwayne Jones, 6-1 ½ 229, Lakewood, NJ. Jones is the kind of big back that has thrived in the Ohio State offense since the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. He doesn't have an offer yet but has the Buckeyes as one of his two favorites.
Darius Walker, 5-11, 195, Buford, GA. Buford is a speed back and high character kid who is an integral part of the two-time defending state champions and their 30-0 record. He had nearly 2000 yards rushing last year and has a who's who list of schools offering.
The Buckeyes would love to get in on Adrian Peterson, but so would everyone else. He would top this list if he were showing interest. I doubt he leaves Texas, but with the announcement of Clarett's suspension, maybe there's another chance. Charlie Jones from Florida is another who would top this list and is showing the Buckeyes as one of his favorites, but he is a heavy Miami lean. Again, Clarett's situation may prompt him to take another look, and if he does, get excited. He is special and a franchise player.