Buckeyes boast unparalleled depth at RB

Ohio State doesn't know if it has an Eddie George or an Archie Griffin or a Beanie Wells on the roster.

None of the Buckeyes' current running backs has distinguished himself as a potential featured guy. Then again, several candidates haven't had the chance to do so ... yet.

What Ohio State knows it has at running back is options. Lots of them. More than they've had in recent memory.

"Without question," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said when asked if this is the most running back depth Ohio State has had during his tenure. "Going into [spring practice], yeah. There's some good depth at tailback, a position where you always need to have it."

Senior Brandon Saine and junior Dan "Boom" Herron entered spring practice atop the depth chart after combining for 1,339 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 307 carries in 2009. Neither man has established himself as a featured back, but both came on strong late in the season.

Saine had 232 rushing yards on 37 carries (6.27 ypc) in Ohio State's final three games, wins against Iowa, Michigan and Oregon. He had several breakaway runs against the Hawkeyes and Wolverines, and his true versatility showed in the Rose Bowl, as he caught two passes for 59 yards and a score. Herron, primarily a between-the-tackles runner, also had multiple receptions in his final two games last fall, and Bollman hinted that both backs would play larger roles in the passing game this fall, especially since Ohio State is thinner at wide receiver than running back.

"There's a lot of knowledge on what Boom and Brandon can do," Bollman said. "Should we have them carry the ball 50 times a day? I don't know if that accomplishes what we or they need. To help them increase their overall knowledge of the game, blitz pickup, being a bigger part of the passing game, trying to extend those guys that way is one way for us to approach things. And really test some of the younger guys carrying the ball."

Who are the young guys? Get out a pen and a big sheet of paper.

Jordan Hall stepped up nicely as a true freshman last fall, rushing for 248 yards on 48 carries (5.2 yards per rush). Sophomore fullback Jermil Martin brings a big body (5-foot-10, 235) to the backfield and averaged 7.6 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman in 2009.

Then there's redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry, the most talked-about back on the Buckeyes' roster. Fans wanted to see Berry last fall, but a nagging hamstring injury kept him sidelined. The heralded recruit from Miami is now in a position to compete for carries.

"He showed flashes of some things he can do," Bollman said, "but [he's] got to improve, got to become much more consistent, a guy that everybody can trust. Jordan got a lot of game experience, much more than he or us probably would have thought, and did a really good job. He really had an outstanding year last year.

"Those are a couple good guys to be battling for those next couple spots."

Carlos Hyde, another 2009 recruit, also is in the mix after spending last year at Fork Union Military Academy to boost his academics. Ohio State signed two more backs in February: decorated recruit Roderick Smith and Adam Griffin, the son of Archie.

"When you have all those guys, the secret is everybody progressing as a team," Bollman said. "If everybody starts worrying about how many touches they're getting, then it's easy for the whole thing to come apart at the seams. You've got to stay unified and understand roles."