Ohio State is the bastion of running backs. Hell, we are the home of Vic Janowicz, Hopalong Cassady, Archie Griffin, Eddie George and a bunch of other also-rans like Robert Smith and Carlos Snow. By the great ghost of Chic Harley, having the best running backs in college football is our god-given right.
So that's why it pains me to analyze the running back situation and say that we are at our lowest point in Dr. R's hazy memory. If Maurice Clarett was playing? It would be Maurice plus the lowest point.
Think back to two years ago: it seemed to be an embarrassment of riches. We had two super backs in the fold: Maurice Hall, who had rushed for three thousand yards and about 400 touchdowns his senior year right here in Columbus; and the precocious Flydell Ross, from Florida, the best back nobody had ever seen. Plus, we had another super back-in-waiting in JaJa Riley, highly touted from California. And there were those Darth Vader shadows of one Maurice Clarett extending from Warren to Columbus. In fact, there was so much talent that Sammy Maldonado, a young horse that was the all-time rushing leader in New York state history, tucked it in and transferred. It was too much for the flawed but talented DeShawn Wynn from Cincinnati who decided he was better off going to University of Florida where the competition wouldn't be so stiff!
And here we are. Just 20-some months later. Maldonado is playing for Maryland. Wynn is showing his stuff at Florida. Riley is gone to Las Vegas. And Clarett's future is an even bigger crapshoot than the gaming tables out there.
To exacerbate the problems, Ross has been either 1) hurt or 2) an under-achiever. Take your pick. Hall has been anxious but he's not built in the mold of the blasting running back we need to run this offense. Behind those two? A walk-on named Roshawn Parker and a true freshman defensive back from New Jersey, Ira Guilford.
Yes, friends, there's trouble right here in Cow Town. That's "trouble" with a capital T. And no D to go with it…
So…let's focus on the future. For three years, the biggest name in running backs in Ohio was Delbert Ferguson. Duane Long still considers him the back with the most potential since Clarett. Ferguson was a guy that ran up huge numbers since his freshman year despite playing alongside another prolific rusher, Terrence Graves, at Youngstown Ursuline. Delbert has since transferred to Warren Harding to finish his schoolboy career and has developed a reputation for 1) having less-than-perfect hands 2) having a less-than-ideal attitude and 3) being dinged up a bit. And while his stock has slipped, he is still the kind of power back that OSU once lusted after.
But let's discuss the two running backs that have committed to the Buckeyes. Antonio Pittman, from Akron Buchtel was the first one offered and he accepted quickly. "Quickly" is the watchword as he is shifty and fast. He is also hurt right now so Tony is having a non-season. To my bloodshot eye, he reminds me a bit of Maurice Hall. That's not a bad thing, but he won't be the prototypical power back we were discussing.
Erik Haw is more the prototypical specimen and he has had a super season so far, rushing for more than 1000 yards in just 4 games for Independence. This kid will play at 210+ pounds and has run an off-the-charts 4.21 forty time. He can run between the tackles and can take the pounding. He might not be The Answer but he could very well be The Future.
What other backs in Ohio are still for the taking? There are two that jump out at you: Gary Russell and Ray Williams. Both have had grades problems that make their potential, well…academic. Russell is a 210-pound back from Columbus Walnut Ridge who can hit a hole or make a hole. Williams is a smaller back that Gary Housteau called the most talented runner he has seen since Clarett. Neither is the big bruiser-type we would like to harness and I don't see either getting offered due to their academic issues.
Nationwide, we have also offered Charlie Jones from Florida and Darius Walker from Georgia. Both of these 5-star backs are amongst the elite in the country. But Jones has let it be known that he is a Miami lean, and it's hard to tell if OSU is high enough on Darius's list to think that there's a bona fide chance.
The best recruit we could get, of course, is Maurice Clarett returning, fully eligible and with his head screwed on straight. Unfortunately, Maurice has made a career out of coming back from injuries and has a history of his head being slightly-to-very askew.
Therefore, we will need to take one more running back to fill the fold. With what's out there, Dr. Recruitnik sez it will be Delbert Ferguson, with the offer coming after the high school season evidence is in.
Delbert, Haw and Pittman would be a pretty good haul. And if Big Mo comes back, it would give us the time to get the pipeline re-filled.
Dr. Recruitnik will check in on a regular irregular basis as the mood seizes him. Since he doesn't have access to computers (or sharp writing utensils), please send all feedback to Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com