Ohio State's coaches thought they had found their Percy Harvin-type, do-it-all player this spring in running back Jordan Hall. Then Hall injured his foot in an off-the-field incident this summer that might keep him away from action until mid-to-late September.
So when the Buckeyes returned to the practice field this weekend, they had to start adjusting some of their offensive plans. That adjustment started with Carlos Hyde -- a 230-pound bruiser who has a much different skill set than Hall -- taking the first-team snaps at running back.
"That changes it a little bit," offensive coordinator Tom Herman told ESPN.com. "We'll probably need to be a little more conventional. What Carlos is able to do is different than what Jordan can do, but what Carlos is able to do, he does really well. There are things Jordan could do that Carlos is not great at. So we've either got to find somebody else to do those things, or not do it at all. That's kind of what we're experimenting with right now."
The assumption is that Ohio State will feature more of a power run game early with Hyde than maybe it would have with the speedier Hall. But Herman says that's not necessarily the case.
"There's a misnomer that the spread [offense] has to be finesse," he said. "We certainly pride ourselves in being able to run the ball downhill. We just happen to do it by incorporating the quarterback in the run game and a few other bells and whistles here and there. But the runs are the same as they were in 1965.
"So I don't know that our running-game philosophy will change much. We will have to figure out ways to get the ball on the perimeter maybe a touch more. But that's not that difficult to do as a staff."
Herman said Hyde is the starter right now, and that the battle for the No. 2 spot between Rod Smith and true freshmen Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball is a heated one. When Hall gets back, everyone gets bumped down, and whoever is the No. 3 back at the time might become "nonexistent," in Herman's words.
The good news for the Ohio State offense is that it still has quarterback Braxton Miller, and an unaccomplished group of receivers that appears to have made some progress over the summer. Herman said that in the first two days of fall practice, the Buckeyes "threw and caught the ball better than any time during the spring."
"We told them, if you don't take the bull by the horns and are just content with working out and going home, then you're going to see in two-a- days what we saw in spring," Herman said. "And everybody knows that what we saw in the spring wasn't good enough."
The receivers, though, are coming along, and Herman said that on Monday, sophomore Devin Smith had his best practice since the new staff arrived. The wideouts are making more plays on the field, though Herman said they still need to learn how communicate with the coaching staff better in classroom and walk-through settings.
As any Buckeyes fan can probably tell you now, no receiver caught more than 14 balls last season. But Herman feels like he has a lot of options to work with.
"I think we have six guys who we feel like have the potential to be really good Big Ten receivers and win championships," he said. "At the same time, none of them have shown the consistency to be that. We think it's there, and we think that if there are not one or two guys who can be dynamic, then at least we have some depth with guys who are functional. But the ability to do it consistently day in and day out is still to be determined."
Just like a lot of things with the Ohio State offense this year.