Thursday, August 5, 2010

SAINE READY TO BE THE LEADER

(Photo of Brandon Saine by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — When most people talk about Ohio State's offense coming into the 2010 season, quarterback Terrelle Pryor is almost always the first name that comes rolling off their tongues.

It's natural for people to gravitate toward the quarterback. We all loved Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for leading their teams to Super Bowl glory. And we gave them all of the publicity, too. They were the faces of their respective teams.

But after examining the great teams those two passers played on, they each had one huge similarity — a do-it-all tailback.

Ohio State senior tailback Brandon Saine is the Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk of the 2010 Buckeyes. Just like both of those great backs, Saine can do his damage on the ground with his feet or in the air with his hands. And, like Craig and Faulk, he does it with very little fanfare.

Saine, who finished second on the team in rushing last season (behind Pryor) with 739 yards (5.1 avg.) and four touchdowns, hopes that his senior year at Ohio State culminates in a Buckeyes rushing title.

"Yeah, that's a big goal for me," Saine said on Thursday, about leading the Buckeyes in rushing this season. "It would be nice, I'm not going to say that I don't want to do it."

Of course running the football isn't the only thing Saine will bring to the table. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound runner also finished third on the team last season with 17 receptions for 224 yards and two scores. In the Rose Bowl, Saine displayed his multiple talents to the entire country, recording 109 yards of offense and a touchdown reception on the Buckeyes opening drive of the game.

With Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel hinting in Chicago that the Buckeyes may be putting the ball in the sky more frequently this season — perhaps 30 times per game — Saine's offensive numbers should skyrocket.

Saine said he doesn't mind the Buckeyes going aerial. In fact, he loves hauling in the rock just as much as he likes toting it.

"Yeah I do," Saine said, when asked if he liked being a receiver out of the backfield. "Getting out there in open space is fun. It's a lot different than running the ball. When you're running the ball you have to find the holes and everything. When you catch the ball there might be one person to beat, and that's always exciting.

"Being able to create mismatches with linebackers or safeties who aren't as fast is also a good way to get me out there."

Saine thinks the new pass happy system will definitely be effective.

"I think no matter what happens it's going to be fun," Saine smiled. "We have so many options that anything the coaches decide to do can work.

"I think we're ready for it," Saine continued. "Towards the end of the year last year, we got the passing game going. I think Terrelle's definitely ready and excited for it. And being able to catch the ball out of the backfield, I'm excited for it too."

Another goal for Saine this season besides being the leading rusher is to be voted as a team captain.

"I think it would be amazing," Saine said. "We have a Captain's breakfast every year and you see all of these great players come back and speak to us. I wasn't even the Captain of my high school team because I'm not a very vocal person. I think it would be a great honor ... I would love it."

So, does Saine feel like he needs to be more vocal if he does become a Captain? Not really. The senior feels that actions speak much louder than words.

"I don't know, I think there's a lot of guys who could pick up the vocal part," Saine said. "I always go with actions instead of words, and do everything right. Show up on time, you know, be that kind of role model."

SAINE IS A ROLE MODEL FOR BERRY ... Ohio State red-shirt freshman tailback Jaamal Berry came into the 2009 season with some serious fan fare. In fact, many thought the ultra athletic runner from south Florida would compete for the starting job as a true freshman.

(left, Jaamal Berry by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

However, injuries and a full house in the OSU backfield, prevented Berry from ever seeing any action during his freshman campaign.

Coming into 2010, Berry is healthy again and ready to compete for playing time. Saine said the young runner's attitude through all of his struggles last season has been admirable.

"(Berry had) a lot of ups and downs," Saine said. "But he was always smiling, always had his head up. I think he's excited for this year, but last year might have taught him that you have to take every chance you can get.

"In general, he was pretty positive about everything. He knew he was still young and had a lot of time, so I think he kept that in mind."

As Berry's roommate, Saine said he is ready and willing to lend the youngster a hand.

"I can answer any questions that Jaamal has, and can definitely help him out with the playbook," Saine said. "I think that's one of the biggest things, when you're a younger guy you're pretty overwhelmed with what's going on in that area. So I can definitely help him."

THE BUCKEYE BACKFIELD IS DEEEEEEP! ... Although Saine has the starting job locked, the battle for playing time in the Ohio State backfield is going to be brutal.

(left, Boom Herron by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

Junior Dan "Boom" Herron, sophomore Jordan Hall, Berry and true freshman Carlos Hyde, will make Doc Tressel's job quite a difficult one.

However, Saine said competition only makes a team stronger.

"I think it's a lot of fun," Saine said. "It would be kind of boring if there wasn't any competition. You can't get better without competition, so I think that we're just having fun and making each other better."

Saine said each runner brings an added element to the backfield.

"Everybody knows Boom (Herron)," Saine said. "They call him "Boom" because he can hit. He's got great burst. Jaamal Berry is the quickest guy I've seen around. And Jordan (Hall) has it all, he's quick, he's fast and he's got great vision. And then Carlos (Hyde) is just a big bruiser.

"I mean, we've got it all."

Saine, who shared time with Herron last season, said that "Boom" is one player to watch out for in 2010.

"I feel like we still stand pretty much next to each other," Saine said of Herron. "I think Boom's a great guy. Off the field, he's a great motivator, he's a lot more vocal than me. He's a really great running back. He's got a lot to offer this year. Everybody should watch out for Boom."

PRYOR LOOKING GOOD THIS SUMMER ... Saine said that Pryor has picked up right where he left off following his Rose Bowl MVP performance last January. He also looks completely healed from the knee surgery he had done after the game.

(left, Terrelle Pryor by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

"He looked great this summer. You could tell he looked really determined," Saine said. "He was out there killing all of the workouts. You can tell he's getting a lot stronger. You couldn't tell he was ever injured."

Saine said the performance in the Rose Bowl has given Pryor a ton of confidence.

"It was huge," Saine said. "We have all the confidence in him that we could have. I think that really helped him out a lot. It was a real motivational boost for him."

Although the Buckeyes are looking to be more of passing team in 2010, Saine admitted his goal of leading the team in rushing could be in danger with Pryor at the helm.

"Oh yeah, definitely," Saine said, when asked if Pryor could lead the team in rushing. "He's amazing at running the ball, you know, he can get 10 yards easily just from escaping the pocket.

"I think he could easily be our leading rusher."

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