The quarterback issue at Ohio State is settled. Braxton Miller is the starter – he solidified the position after a solid performance at Nebraska. Joe Bauserman further solidified the position after an abysmal performance (1-10 passing for 13 yards) when he came in for the injured Miller
The question now for Ohio State – and one that is a far better problem to have – is at running back. Carlos Hyde stepped up big against Nebraska, but senior Dan ‘Boom’ Herron returns from suspension this week, giving Ohio State the enjoyable problem of having multiple running backs who can be successful.
As to how involved Herron will actually be in the game plan, Fickell said he would “get some touches.”
“You might see Dan initially on special teams, whether he’s on the kickoff team, whether he’s on the kickoff return team,” Fickell said. “But Dan is a big part of who we are. That’s probably one of the not just what we’ve missed from him on the field, but in the locker room, off the field, in the huddle, just that his personality, his passion, his confidence level.”
It may not be surprising that Herron won’t initially be back to the starting job, especially considering Hyde’s breakout performance against Nebraska. The sophomore ran for 104 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. One of the scores came on a 63 yard run, OSU’s longest play from scrimmage this season.
“[Hyde and Jordan Hall] have done a good job, they’re going to continue to battle,” Fickell said. “It’s not like they can’t be out there for us. We know we’re going to need them all, and our team is good with them.”
Though Hyde performed extremely well against Nebraska, it’s hard to imagine Herron wouldn’t make a significant impact on the offense. ‘Boom’ rushed for 1155 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and that was with a passing attack ranked 54th nationally in passing yards, according to cfbstats.com. This season, Ohio State ranks 111th nationally, increasing the need for a solid rushing attack.
“You are always going to get better as an offense when you have a 1,000-yard rusher return to the huddle,” senior center Mike Brewster said. “He really knows how to hit the holes and I think he is more powerful and stronger than last year. He is the vocal leader for this team and I’m really interested to see how he does Saturday.”
Herron’s return thus gives Ohio State a good problem to deal with. ‘Boom’ has experience, Hyde is beginning to assert himself, and Hall is averaging 4 yards per carry and has two 80-yard games this season.
The more fresh backs Ohio State has, the less pressure will be on Miller. And more importantly, the fewer hits Miller will take rushing the football. Coming off an ankle sprain against Nebraska, protecting Miller will prove vital on the road against Illinois.
“That’s always something you worry about,” Fickell said of Miller taking hits. “Obviously we’ve all got to be smart with what we’re doing, so if he’s able to go, we’ve got to make sure we go with what we do best, and sometimes that entails him running the football. Now, we’ve got to be smart with that, and as we get into the week we’ll figure out what that situation is best.”
The evaluation of Miller’s injury through practice this week has been more or less positive.
“”I thought Braxton looked really good in practice today. He didn’t show any signs of injury and I think he should be fine for the game Saturday,” Brewster said.
With the return of Herron, Fickell will have to decide how to divvy up the playing time. But with OSU’s struggles on offense this season, deciding which talented running back to play will likely be a choice Fickell will not resent having to make.