OSU Running Game In Good Hands

The 95,722 fans in attendance at the Ohio State spring game and those watching at home learned something media, coaches and Buckeye players had already concluded from the previous 14 days of spring practice: The Ohio State running game figures to be in good hands for 2009.

How effective the Ohio State running game would be this season was in doubt when spring practice started and Chris "Beanie" Wells, a uniquely talented individual who left school a year early, was gone, but the same day Wells became the 31st player selected in the 2009 NFL Draft on Saturday, his former understudies made some plays of their own at Ohio Stadium.

Dan "Boom" Herron, Wells' backup last season and the presumed starter for '09, showed he has not lost any of his quickness or shiftiness, bolting for 43 yards on 10 carries for the Scarlet squad, but his respectable 4.3-yards-per-carry average was dwarfed by the effort of Brandon Saine.

Saine rumbled six times for 55 yards, a 9.2-yard average that harkened to his days as an Ohio schoolboy star for Piqua High School.

Marcus Williams, a walk-on from Ironton, Ohio, had his moment in the sun with a 75-yard run in the third quarter, too.

Altogether, Buckeye backs combined to carry 33 times for 226 yards, a show Williams said would not have been possible when spring practice began because not only have the running backs developed, so too has a rebuilt offensive line.

"Coming into the spring, we had offensive linemen playing positions they had never played in their lives, so it was a mixed batch group of guys, and after about a week they finally got their chemistry and ever since then we haven't looked back," Williams said. "There's been holes every day, every spring practice. It's been really nice."

Not to be overlooked are the young OSU fullbacks: redshirt freshmen Jermil Martin and James Georgiades and true freshman Adam Homan. Georgiades did not play in the spring game because of injury, but Homan and Martin both helped clear the way in their first action in front of a big crowd in the stadium.

"That play I got that long run, that was an iso block by the fullback," Williams said, referring specifically to Martin. "If he don't make that block, I don't go anywhere. I remember the very first spring practice, we ran that same play and the fullback went the opposite way and just left me there one-on-one with a linebacker. That's a big difference right there."

Also looking a lot different all spring was Saine, the former Ohio Mr. Football who saw most of his sophomore season ruined by leg injuries in 2008.

He ran just 26 times for 65 yards during the season, often looking tentative when he did get a chance to tote the pigskin, but the 6-1, 217-pounder looked like a new man this April.

He felt like one, too.

"I feel like I really improved this spring, and that's what spring is for," Saine said. "I got more knowledge of the game, but definitely the biggest thing would be the amount of reps that I got in. Just working with the offensive line and the quarterbacks and the team as a whole."

"It's a great thing to see that Brandon is healthy now," Herron said. "He's been dinged up and banged up a little the last couple of years. Now that he's healthy, it brings more options to us."

Herron, who ran for 439 yards on 89 carries last season as a redshirt freshman, admitted that filling in for Wells is a big job, but what he saw all spring filled him with confidence.

"Losing Beanie, those are big shoes to fill," he said. "With me and Brandon and the talents that we have, if we continue to work hard and just do all the little things right, and listen to our coaches, I think we'll be just fine."

Homan said the young fullbacks have had to deal with learning the difference between college athletes and those back in high school they could dominate, but he was upbeat after the spring game.

Following the lead of the third-year tailbacks Saine and Herron has helped.

"I think it's going really well," Homan said. "You've got two guys back there who have had reps. They know what they're doing. It's always great to have older guys there to help you out if you ever have to check something at the line, so that's been great."

And more help is on the way this summer when three freshmen make their way to Columbus.

At 5-11 and 193 pounds, four-star prospect Jaamal Berry of Miami Palmetto Senior has a similar build to Herron, but a 4.31-second 40-yard dash time indicates he has an extra gear.

Listed 5-9 and 185 pounds, Jordan Hall of Jeannette, Pa., is a three-star small back, too, who is expected to be able to help both in the running game and as a receiver.

Then there is Carlos Hyde, another Floridian. The Naples product is rated a four-star fullback by Scout.com, but all indications are he will be a runner for the Buckeyes. Checking in at 6-0 and weighing 225 pounds, he will be the biggest Buckeye tailback when he steps on campus.

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