Though the Warren (Ohio) Harding product ended up taking a redshirt during his freshman year, the running back was far from anonymous, even reaching No. 3 on the depth chart and traveling with the team when Brandon Saine dinged up his knee during the first half of the season. At the time, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said the coaching staff debated removing Herron's redshirt "like five times a day."
"There were a couple of games where I was kind of like, ‘I might be going in so I have to be ready,'" Herron said. "I stayed ready at all times."
The coaching staff also saw fit to laud Herron with numerous scout team honors. He was named the scout special units player of the week after the Sept. 1 game against Youngstown State and the scout offensive player of the week for the contest Sept. 15 against Washington. After the Michigan State game Oct. 20, he claimed both of those honors in the same week.
At that time, Tressel was gushing in his praise of Herron.
"Dan Herron is going to be a tremendous football player and he gives great effort," Tressel told reporters during his midweek press conference after the MSU contest. "He's tough. He's willing to do anything that the team needs, just like he's within willing to red-shirt, certainly could be willing to contribute both on special teams and offense. What the team needs right now is what he's doing and he's more than willing to do that.
For a guy who was unable to break into any games, the praise was effusive – and it helped Herron deal with the fact that he was not able to see live action. In the 2008 football media guide, Herron lists receiving the scout team honors as the best part of the '07 season.
"I earned those awards, and the coaches told me I was doing a good job," he said. "I was very proud of them. I was happy to get them."
The next reward Herron could get is to actually touch the ball on the field. The last time he was able to do that came in 2006 when he was a senior at Warren Harding, where coach Thom McDaniels told BSB that Herron was the second-best back he'd ever coached after Maurice Clarett. During his final prep campaign, Herron totaled 1,434 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"I want to get on the field," he said. "That's my biggest goal is to get on the field, just do the best I can for my team. I'm not redshirting anymore, so I have to be ready."
According to running backs coach Dick Tressel, Herron might not have to wait that long to see time.
"It could be the first game as easy as it could b e the second or third or fifth," he said. "The one thing about ball carriers, you have to get them going. You can't just send them in one play. You try to put them in situations where they can be successful.
"It's not going to be on Boom when he plays. He's ready to play. It'll be on us – when are we ready to say, ‘Hey, go out, because we know you'll be successful.'"
When Herron does get on the field, fans can expect a straightforward running style. He was timed in high school at 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash; at the same time, he excels between the tackles at 5-10, 193 pounds.
During last spring's jersey scrimmage, the first time most media members were able to see Herron in scarlet and gray, he totaled 38 yards on 11 carries. Though the average of 3.5 yards per carry isn't outstanding, he was able to grind out his yards by picking through hard-to-find lanes put together by a patchwork line. Of his 11 carries, all but two went for multiple yards, and he was never brought down for a loss.
He showed similar characteristics a weekend later in the spring game, running for 30 yards on 10 carries and adding a 1-yard touchdown run.
With a year of experience in the offense under his belt, he should be ready to go when called upon. Also gained during his redshirt year was an air of maturity that helped him understand why he wasn't on the field on a team that already had Chris Wells, Maurice Wells and Saine.
"It was hard to get used to, but it was just something that I had to go through," he said. "I think it was a good thing. I learned a lot. I got to know a lot of things so I think it was a good thing."
Now, with a redshirt year gone, he should be in sight wearing his new No. 1 and in people's plans in 2008.