Herron Ready For His Shot

As Ohio State fans have been concerned with the potential loss of Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Wells at tailback, the Buckeyes themselves have not panicked at the thought. One of the primary reasons is redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron, a player who figures to see his role increase if Wells is unavailable.

As Chris Wells went down with an injury in Ohio State's first game of the season, Dan Herron found himself in an awkward position.

On one hand, the tailback known as "Boom" was full of sympathy for his fallen teammate as any good comrade would be. But on the other hand, there was a sense of excitement at the fact that opportunity was definitely knocking for the Warren (Ohio) Harding product.

After enduring a redshirt season that was a fresh irritation each week that went by, Herron toiled on the scout team and reportedly gave the first-team defense fits. He then attacked his second year in the program with a mindset of seeing as much playing time as possible and was rewarded when he was the second running back to see playing time against Youngstown State.

Now, with Wells' status uncertain for third-ranked Ohio State's game Saturday against Ohio University (noon, ESPN), Herron could be one of the primary benefactors – and he is ready.

"I've been working hard," he said. "I'm just trying to be the best player I can be. I'm just working hard, doing everything right and trying to be the best."

Those results have apparently been enough to help him rapidly ascend the team's depth chart during fall camp to the point of being Wells' primary backup. That meteoric rise was aided, however, by injuries: senior tailback Maurice Wells was battling a sore back and sophomore Brandon Saine nursed a hamstring injury during the same time.

Into the void stepped Herron, and he apparently made the most of his chance.

"He's tough. He's in your face. He doesn't really back down from anybody," senior tight end Rory Nicol said.

Replacing a back such as Chris Wells presents a challenge for a player of Herron's stature. Wells – or "Beanie," as he is known – is listed at 6-1, 237 pounds, while Herron checks in at 5-10, 193 pounds.

Still, senior linebacker Marcus Freeman said Herron packs plenty of wallop for his frame.

"Boom's a guy that isn't that big but will lower his shoulder and try to take you out. He has that macho man mindset. I don't think he realizes how small he is, but he's surprised a lot of people. I remember trying to hit him and he stuns you a little bit. He's definitely a hard runner."

That sentiment was shared by senior fullback Brandon Smith, who has blocked for both running backs.

"Boom runs very aggressively," Smith said. "He's explosive, fast and powerful. He's not afraid of contact. When you compare him to Beanie he's a smaller running back. He's learning and he's ready to go. He just wants to play. He wants his shot."

But being a hard, aggressive runner is different at 43 pounds lighter than Beanie. Accordingly, Freeman said Herron is more like former Buckeye Antonio Pittman than Beanie.

"Pitt was very quick," Freeman said. "He was definitely a shifty running back, and that's a lot like Boom. I think Boom is trying maybe a little more to be a power runner sometimes, but he has that same shiftiness as Pitt."

As the Buckeyes begin to plan for a game possibly without Beanie, they do so now with three fully healthy tailbacks in Herron, Saine and Maurice Wells. Running backs coach Dick Tressel said the plan would be for each of those three running backs to carry the ball at least a dozen times against the Bobcats.

Tressel declined to list Herron as his No. 2 back behind Beanie heading into the weekend, however.

"The only thing I can say is that in the game Saturday Mo Wells played well," Tressel said. "He's practicing really well. Brandon Saine is healthy and played pretty well on Saturday and is playing well in practice. That decision still is out there. I met with the guys today and said, ‘I'm sure our goal is to get all of you a dozen to 15 carries and it just isn't set yet how that's going to happen.' "

On five carries against the Penguins, Herron finished with 17 yards in his first collegiate action. Afterwards, he admitted to feeling like both a sophomore and a freshman at the same time.

That uncertainty quickly gave way when asked if he would be ready to assume a heavier load should Beanie be out for an extended period of time. He answered in the affirmative.

This Saturday, he might get his chance to show it.

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