Wednesday, February 18, 2009

PRE-SPRING DRILL: Buckeyes looking to make a 'Boom' in the backfield

Ohio State must find a way to replace Beanie Wells and his 2,806 yards (5.8 avg.) and 23 touchdowns worth of production over the past two seasons as the Buckeyes' starting tailback.

Wells has been a staple in the Buckeyes backfield during the last three seasons, all of which ended with Big Ten titles and BCS bowl game appearances. Being able to replace such a productive force will be quite difficult, to say the least.

With Terrelle Pryor coming into his second season as the Buckeyes starting quarterback, his and the team's success in 2009 may hinge on how well they can replace Wells.

Now, it's only February, but here's an early look at the post-Beanie backfield — and it may begin (at least in the spring) with a "Boom."

Possible depth chart going into the spring:
1. DAN "BOOM" HERRON, r.s. sophomore
Herron, a 5-10, 195-pound running back from Warren, may possess the nickname "Boom," but unlike his predecessor (Wells), pounding the rock is not his motus operandi. Herron is more of a slasher than a smasher, and his smaller frame may prevent him from being a 200-carry back.

However, Herron did step up when needed this season, especially in the big games. In major tilts against USC, Michigan (rivalry game) and Texas (Fiesta Bowl), Herron carried the ball 24 times for 161 yards (6.7 avg.) and three touchdowns, including a 15-yard fourth quarter score against the Longhorns, which put the Buckeyes ahead with less than two minutes to play in the contest.

Herron finished the 2008 season with 439 yards on 89 carries and six touchdowns.

2. JAAMAL BERRY, true freshman
I may be overhyping this kid a bit, but Berry may be the most electrifying runner the Buckeyes have EVER had. 

Now, before the Buck nuts start coming out of the woodwork with the "what about Archie, what about Eddie, what about Beanie" chants, let me explain.

First, Berry has blazing speed. We're talking 4.3 wheels. He also has instincts that are unteachable. Reggie Bush-like, Barry Sanders-like. Stops on a dime, goes from zero-to-60 in a blink of an eye. You know, THAT TYPE OF GUY!

Here's the catch, though. Berry is 5-10 and tips the scales at about 185 pounds. Very un-Beanie-like. 

Still, this kid's upside is to the moon and he will definitely get his carries this fall.

3. BRANDON SAINE, junior
The former Ohio Mr. Football from Piqua, battled injury all season long in 2008 and was unable to display the game breaking speed that made him a track legend as a prepster.

Saine has yet to show that he can run the football effectively at the collegiate level. However, his receiving abilities are impressive and he may be a third-down back who could make great contributions as a receiver out of the backfield. Shoot, he may even move to receiver permanently— he is that good of a pass catcher.

Nonetheless, Saine brings prototypical size to the backfield (6-1, 220), unlike both Herron and Berry.

4. CARLOS HYDE, true freshman
This 6-0, 225-pound bulldozer from Naples, Florida could be the sleeper of the group.

Hyde is a big, physical runner who will make opposing defenses feel battered and bruised at game's end. 

As a senior at Naples High School, Hyde rushed for more than 1,600 yards (10.5 avg.) and 16 touchdowns and garnered offers from majors programs such as Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami.

However, his 40 time is in the 4.7 range, so look for him to be more of a short yardage back, at least during his freshman season.

I'll continue with the receivers later ...