Berry Looking For Fruitful 2010 Campaign

Of the Ohio State football players who redshirted in 2009, the one Buckeye fans might want to see most is Jaamal Berry. The highly touted running back from Miami has the ability to go the distance, but a leg injury short-circuited his first year on campus. Now healthy, he's hoping to make an impact at a crowded position.

Watching football, not playing it, for a year can do funny things for a player's motivation.

Just ask Jaamal Berry.

A year ago, the four-star running back prospect from Miami went from possible contributor to an Ohio State team that ended up winning the Rose Bowl to an injury casualty.

Now healthy, his goal is to return kicks, take whatever carries he can earn and contribute to another squad with lofty goals.

"I'm just going to try my best to fit and try to make plays," he said. "I just want to go out there and ball out, basically. I don't want to set any goals or anything, I just want to show everyone what I can do on the field."

Those abilities have rarely been questioned. Scout named the Palmetto High School product its No. 8-ranked running back in the class of 2009, and speculation said Berry would get a chance to see the field as the No. 3 running back behind Brandon Saine and Dan Herron.

Instead, Berry was limited during fall camp because of a hamstring injury that lingered into the season, and fellow freshman Jordan Hall became the third tailback. Head coach Jim Tressel said as late as the end of October that Berry could play if necessary as injury knocks sidelined the top two rushers at one point or another, but he ended up taking a redshirt instead.

That was tough on the 5-10, 200-pounder who ran for 1,033 yards and 14 touchdowns as a prep junior in 2007 before battling a wrist injury his senior year.

"Last year was pretty tough, that nagging hamstring injury," he said. "No one likes to be injured, and I wanted to play so bad. But it wasn't under my will. Now, since I'm 100 percent ready to go, I just can't wait to get on the field."

While the Buckeye head man said late into last year that Berry could have played, his brother, running backs coach Dick Tressel, said at Sunday's media day that he wasn't so sure.

"He didn't have the opportunity to develop enough that you knew what he was going to do to get on the field," the position coach said. "We can't send anybody out there until we know they're going to do what they can do. You don't want to send a guy out in front of 105,000 fans and hi not play like he's capable of playing. That can be a nightmare for everybody."

Now, after seeing Berry perform through spring practices and early into the fall, Tressel said many of those concerns have started to recede. The only question left is consistency.

"We know what he can do," he said. "Now he has to get to the point where we're sure that he will do that. It's sort of a, ‘Put it on tape and show me that you will do it a couple of times in a row so we can send you out very comfortably.' "

According to those in the running backs room, Berry is sort of like a home-run hitter in baseball. He has the power to go long – "He can get to the end zone," Herron noted – but also a penchant for striking out.

Turning a few of those whiffs (negative plays) into singles (positive carries) could be the difference between Berry seeing the field and fighting for more time with the Buckeyes' talented stable of rushers.

"Just pure patience," Tressel said when asked what Berry needs to work on. "Being calm, being patient, not trying to use his explosiveness before it's time to do it. I think that's probably the key."

For his part, Berry said he's taken that message to heart.

"I just have to stay focused, and obviously you have to know the playbook with no missed assignments," he said. "It's just cutting when you need to make that little cut and using your speed when you really need to use it. I can't wait to get on the field and just do all that.

"I'm excited. I had a good offseason workout, I've been training hard, I know the playbook a lot more. I'm just ready to go."


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