Competition intensifies among Ohio State running backs

With senior running back Daniel ‘Boom’ Herron suspended for the first five games of Ohio State football’s 2011 season, four other backs are currently competing for their suspended comrade’s playing time.  The competing backs in question are junior Jordan Hall, redshirt sophomore Jaamal Berry, sophomore Carlos Hyde and redshirt freshman Rod Smith. With the exception of the injured Berry, each back received significant carries during the contest. As of right now, though, first-year coach Luke Fickell said there is not a front-runner in the competition. “There’s a bunch of guys that can do a bunch of different things,” Fickell said. “What you do with your opportunities that you get, that’ll determine how many more times you get those opportunities.” As for how the backs all feel about one another during the competition, both Hall and Berry said the group remains friendly on and off the field — they just push each other to get better every day in practice. Berry and Hall have previously been utilized for speed and outside of the tackle runners, while Smith and Hyde have been between the tackle. Hall has also been put in packages that see him line up in the slot position. “They (coaches) are using me in different places on the offense,” Hall said, “so I think it should be fun trying to create mismatches for linebackers.” Hyde, however, was clocked as the fastest of the backs in the 40 yard dash. “I don’t think too many people know that I got speed myself and I can break away,” Hyde said. “I’m not just one type of back that just has power.” Hyde said he hopes the coaches spread the ball around to all the backs, and added that one of the backs vying for Herron’s spot will need to step up. “Somebody has to pick up when (Herron) won’t be there,” Hyde said. “You got to step your game up this year, so I feel like I just got to play on another level so maybe I can get a chance to be the starter.” Berry, Hall and Hyde all agreed that Herron’s role on the team has changed and that he has played the role of a teacher for their benefit. “He’s almost like a coach to help us out when we need help,” Hyde said. “It’s just Boom being Boom. (Herron’s) just being a happy guy, coming to practice happy and trying to keep everybody else’s spirit up.” No matter who ends up carrying the bulk of the suspended Herron’s workload, junior fullback Zach Boren said it will be fun to see who he is blocking for when OSU opens its season on Sept. 3 against Akron at the ‘Shoe. “It’s definitely exciting just because all the guys are going to be out there competing every play,” Boren said. “With them not knowing how many carries they’re going to get in a game, they’re going to be busting their butt every play, which will be fun blocking for them.”