A few years ago, running backs coach Dick Tressel coached Wells, who was exclusively known by his nickname of Beanie. In three seasons, Wells racked up 3,382 rushing yards – a figure that puts him fourth on the school's all-time rushing list.
"I started out calling him Chris but he liked Beanie so I ended up calling him Beanie," Tressel said.
Herron also has a nickname. Most everyone on the team calls him "Boom," as do his friends, family members and even some of his professors. Just not Tressel.
"I don't know if it's a level of respect or it's from my teacher days that nicknames didn't jump out that quickly at you," he said. "I call Boom ‘Boom' quite a bit, but he's Dan."
He came about the nickname "Boom" when his father started calling him "Daniel Boone" and it was simply shortened from there. In the same vein, Wells earned his from his grandmother as a little child when she described him as being as thin as a beanpole.
Call him what you want, but Herron is now in his fourth season with the program. After redshirting as a freshman, Herron has become one of the key names in a stable of backs that could run five deep.
Looking back on his freshman season, Herron said he would not change things if he could.
"If I could go back, I definitely would still redshirt," he said. "All the younger guys that redshirt, they may be upset right now but in the long run you look back and, ‘Hey, I'm glad I redshirted.' You learn so much. You watch the older guys and learn from them."
Herron is a different situation than the one Wells faced in Columbus, where he pushed incumbent starter Antonio Pittman for playing time as a true freshman before holding down the starting role for the next two seasons. As he has split time with Wells, senior-to-be Brandon Saine and others, Herron has amassed 1,326 rushing yards on 307carries while playing in 26 games.
He is emerging as OSU's top rusher aside from starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor as well. In last week's 24-13 victory against Illinois, Herron carried the ball 23 times for 95 yards after picking up six yards on four first-half carries.
With the Buckeyes needing to salt away a conference win, head coach Jim Tressel said Herron lived up to his nickname.
"Boom is always ready to be that physical back you want him to be," the coach said. "He just has that ability to spark you. He's physical. He has that ability to raise up everyone around him just because of his personality. The types of things we were doing are the types of things he does best. All that put together, he was the man for the job."
Last season, injuries limited him to 10 games. An ankle injury kept him out against Indiana, and he returned the following week against Wisconsin but lasted one series before reinjuring himself. He subsequently missed the next two games and went on to rush for 600 yards and seven scores – both career-high totals.
Now healthy, Herron said he was not at full strength for the final five games of the season.
"I felt like I couldn't play to the best of my abilities so I wasn't too impressed with my performance," he said. "I wouldn't say I was 100 percent. I was good enough to go through. I had to get back out there. I definitely didn't want to miss any more games."
He returned against New Mexico State and carried the ball six times for 66 yards, but he would not regain his starting spot from Saine, who was putting together the first injury-free season of his OSU career.
Assuming both backs stay healthy, the Buckeye rushing attack again figures to be a two-headed monster although Herron could be in line for more carries.
"They are competitive but I think that the way they are approaching it is, ‘I'm ready to be the guy. If I don't have to be, more power to the team but I am ready to be the guy. When I'm out there, I'm the guy so let's go,' " Dick Tressel said.
Herron said he agreed with that assessment.
"Of course you would like to get a lot of carries, but it's always a good thing to have a fresh guy in there," Herron said. "I think Brandon and I work very well together splitting the carries. The coach is going to get us our carries. I think it's a good thing."