Saine missed approximately 30 preseason practices last summer with a hamstring injury and never hit his stride during his sophomore campaign. His production also took a dip. Saine only rushed for 65 yards with one touchdown on 26 carries in 12 games. He also caught three passes for 37 yards. That was a decline from the combined 427 yards of total offense he produced as a freshman.
Saine's 2008 season was derailed just two days into fall practice. He injured his left hamstring and missed crucial time before the beginning of the season.
"(The injury) set me back," Saine said. "I missed out on a lot of reps. So I wasn't really able to get out there and run with the offensive line like I wanted to."
The Piqua product played in every game of the regular season, but was no where near as successful as he was in 2007.
"It's a hard injury to come back from," Saine said. "I wasn't sure I was going to pull it or not. I needed to get my confidence back. … People had told me it takes a while (to recover). Once you feel good that's not the end of it because a lot of it is in your mind. You're afraid to push it."
Saine admitted that he was down on himself at times last season.
"I wanted to practice so bad, but I couldn't do it," Saine said. "When I finally got back it was almost like it was too late. We were game planning and it's hard to work someone back in when you're game planning."
Once it came time to plan for Ohio State's Fiesta Bowl game vs. Texas, it appeared Ohio State was going to take advantage of Saine's speed and receiving ability out of the backfield in order to spread the defense. Unfortunately, Saine sprained his right ankle a week before the Buckeyes left for Arizona and did not play against the Longhorns.
Saine is getting plenty of reps this spring, as he and redshirt sophomore Daniel "Boom" Herron are the two top running backs currently with the Buckeyes. Running backs coach Dick Tressel said 2009 could be a big year for the Ohio Division I record holder in the 100-yard dash.
"He's a good player and has the opportunity now to rebound from a tough year last year," Tressel said. "As a freshman he made some great plays with bursts and attacked people. Last year he wasn't in a position to do that, from a pulled hamstring to never having enough reps. And being behind three other good guys was part of that too."
"I think he'll recover fine, but I think he feels like, ‘Yeah, I missed some turns, but that just means I better make good use of these turns,' " Tressel added.
Saine is 100 percent healthy and happy to be back on the field. He will battle Herron, along with senior Marcus Williams and incoming freshman rushers Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde, for playing time. For now, Saine is trying to make up for missed time.
"I'm glad I'm getting those reps," Saine said. "I need those after last year."
Saine is hoping those reps will turn into an impressive junior season. That would help put his injury woes in the past.
"I'm definitely ready for a fresh start," Saine said. "I think I'm going to have fun and be injury free."