With Hall Hurting, Opportunity May Knock for Hyde
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Had the Buckeyes hung on to beat Nebraska in Lincoln earlier this year, the player of the game would likely have been Carlos Hyde.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The sophomore tailback out of Naples, Fla. racked up 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13 carries before watching Ohio State’s epic collapse in the second half. Had they run him more in the fourth quarter, they may have avoided coughing up a 21-point lead to the Cornhuskers.
That is something even Luke Fickell admitted, but Hyde has carried the ball a total of three times since the game. He didn’t even see the field during Ohio State’s 33-29 win over Wisconsin, but that is likely to change this week as the Buckeyes take on a porous Indiana team Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes will probably be without junior tailback Jordan Hall, who sprained his ankle during his 42-yard kick return that set up the dramatic winning touchdown against Wisconsin last Saturday.
“I don’t think Jordan is going to make it,” Fickell said Thursday.
“He hasn’t quite turned the corner with his ankle.”
Under different circumstances, Hall’s absence would be a tremendous blow for the Buckeyes. Currently the team’s No. 2 tailback behind Boom Herron, Hall has rushed for 330 yards on 85 carries this season.
He started three games at tailback before Herron returned from suspension, but Hall is a player whose biggest contributions have come on special teams. He currently leads the Big Ten with 143.5 all-purpose yards per game this season and he is third in the conference in kick return average at just over 30 yards per return.
Ohio State will also be without their No. 2 kick returner this week. Jaamal Berry was suspended indefinitely after being charged with misdemeanor counts of assault and disorderly conduct.
Fickell wouldn’t speculate on Berry’s possible return this season.
“We’re going to continue to move forward and focus on those 100 guys they’ve still got up there,” he said.
“We want to make sure that’s who we’re talking about.”
The Buckeyes will use Chris Fields as their primary return man Saturday. Fickell said the other spot on kick return could go to any number of players, including Corey Brown, Devin Smith, Boom Herron or even Hyde.
The 238-pound running back probably wouldn’t make the best return man, but he should see time as the No. 2 tailback this weekend behind Herron, who has racked up 274 yards on the ground in two games.
“We want all these guys to be ready to be the starting tailback, and whether they end up getting the carries or not, you never know,” Fickell said.
“But you’ve always got to be ready for your opportunity. I think that’s the thing that Carlos has done a good job of. He has kept his mind right. The situation has not been easy for him with the way he played against Nebraska, but you never know what your opportunity is going to arise. This could be a very good opportunity for him.”
Hyde still leads the team in rushing this season with 408 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. His 5.2 yards per carry average is better than anyone else on the team, including Herron (4.9) and Hall (3.9).
He proved during the Nebraska game that he can make the big play—his 63-yard touchdown run broke the game open in the second quarter—and fight for the tough yards—his 1-yard touchdown run should have given the Buckeyes an insurmountable lead in the third quarter.
“His opportunities are going to be there. When they come, I couldn't tell him exactly. But you got to be ready for your opportunities,” Fickell forecasted on Tuesday.
“And you can look at tailbacks and all the way back to a couple of years ago, I think Arkansas had two guys in (Darren) McFadden and Felix Jones, then they had this third guy, I think his name was -- Peyton Hillis or something, might be almost an All-Pro now.”
Herron and Hall aren’t exactly McFadden and Jones, who are both starting running backs in the NFL now, but that didn’t make it any easier on Hyde, who expressed some of frustration via Twitter after getting just three carries at Illinois.
There is no question that Herron has staked his claim as the team’s No. 1 back since returning from his six-game suspension, but the fifth-year senior made it a point to explain the situation with his younger teammate.
“We definitely talked. And I think he's doing a lot better now,” Herron said.
“I told him when I first got here, I had a lot of guys in front of me, Beanie Wells, Brandon (Saine) and Maurice Wells, I told him he has a couple of years left. So his time is definitely going to come. He's a great running back, and he's always working hard, always doing a great job. So his time will definitely come.”
It may be here even sooner than expected. Herron is coming off a 33-carry game against the Badgers, which always one of the more physical games of the year. He had to have his ankle taped twice during the game, which means the Buckeyes could lean on Hyde to share the load against a Hoosier defense that is dead last in the Big Ten at stopping the run.
“It ultimately comes down to what does he believe,” Fickell said.
“Does he believe in us, in his team, in sacrifice? And he's shown to do a great job of it.”
Fickell said the Buckeyes could also use Rod Smith at tailback this week, although the redshirt freshman will also be available to play special teams and linebacker against Indiana.
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