Joe's Dilemma: Fullback Or Tailback?

For OSU senior Branden Joe, spring football could be an interesting time. Joe may split time between fullback and tailback. Click here to read his thoughts on that potential development as well as his feelings on using yoga to improve flexibility, his new position coach and the battle at quarterback.

When Ohio State opens spring practice today, there is a possibility that Branden Joe will spend a good bit of his time with the tailbacks instead of the fullbacks.

Joe, listed at 6-0, 245 pounds, continues to be pegged as OSU's starting fullback. But after taking a successful turn at tailback during the team's Fiesta Bowl win over Kansas State in January it seems that Joe may get more than just a cursory look at tailback this spring.

The Buckeyes need some help at tailback. Fellow senior Lydell Ross returns for his second season as the starter. But senior Maurice Hall and walk-on Michael DeMaria will miss most or all of spring drills due to injuries. True freshman Antonio Pittman (an early enrollee), sophomore Ira Guilford and walk-on Roshawn Parker are also in the tailback group.

"There was an article on regarding the yoga classes we had been taking as a team," Joe said Tuesday. "And (in parentheses) behind me was `tailback.' That was news to me, but I'll take it. I've kind of been getting hints over the winter. When we do our drills, we break it up by position. This morning, they actually threw me in with the tailbacks."

In addition to the usual conditioning drills, Joe talked about he and several of his teammates were involved in yoga training.

"It's hard to put yoga into words until you actually try it," Joe said. "It just creates a flexibility and it makes you stronger. It strengthens your muscles at the same time you gain flexibility. It's a great workout. Yoga does a lot for us. We're doing anything we can to get ready for the season."

Joe said it was Hall's idea to try yoga.

"Mo Hall was the first guy to try it, which is one of the more stiffer guys on our team," said Joe, a product of nearby Westerville South. "That's ironic, but he got a bunch of guys to come and join it and it's been a big hit ever since."

Joe was asked if he could put his feet behind his ears.

"Oh, no, but I'm working on it," he joked.

Through his first three seasons, Joe had been used mostly as a blocking fullback. Going into the Fiesta Bowl, he had only carried the ball 16 times in 12 games. But he got 11 totes against Kansas State and responded with 46 critical yards as OSU held the ball and tried to hang on for dear life in the second half of that 35-28 win.

"It was exciting," said Joe, who only has 28 career carries for 100 yards. "It was like a dream come true. But in the back of my mind, I always knew I could handle certain situations if I was put in at the right time."

Joe was asked about the competition this spring at the quarterback position.

"We're going to have confidence in either guy under center," Joe said. "We're going to support Coach Tressel's decision. At the same time, we know whoever is behind the center will deserve it. He will earn it. It will play itself out."

He also took a chance to poke fun at the media, who always want to build up a quarterback controversy.

"It's always interesting," Joe said. "It gives you guys something to talk about. It's like the (presidential) campaign. It's the Troy Smith-vs.-Justin Zwick Show."

Joe admitted that, with just five starters back on offense -- and just two on the line, it could be a hard spring.

"Spring is kind of gruesome time," Joe said. "They place us in certain situations to see how we're going to react and to create an identity for us. We did lose 26 seniors from last year. We step up to the opportunity of being seniors. We've kind of been waiting in the wings for the last couple of years. Now it's our turn. It's what Coach Tressel preaches -- the seniors have to have their best season. That's been imbedded in us."

Joe discussed the hiring of Dick Tressel as the running backs coach.

"I think it's wonderful to promote from within the family," Joe said. "It's a guy we have worked with for years and known. He knows our names. There is a certain learning process he can skip because he's been around us. So far, the transition is great. It will be neat to get him back on the field coaching."

Of course, the discussion came full circle back to where Joe may line up this spring. He was asked which position he prefers to play.

"I prefer to be on the field starting with the starting 11," he hedged.

But then he added, "I will almost certainly play both. I'm kind of at a weight where I can play both. I have dropped some weight to gain some quickness and speed. But I haven't gotten too light to where I can't take on the Anthony Schlegels and the linebackers and the defensive linemen.

"The year we won (the national championship), I was a whopping 257 pounds. Today, I weighed in at about 238. I feel a difference. During the 6 a.m. conditioning, it felt like I got that big man off my back and now I can run."

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