Things are pretty touch-and-go in the Ohio State backfield for Week 3.
Carlos Hyde is out with an MCL injury he suffered late in the first half of Week 2's 31-16 victory over UCF, and it could take him multiple weeks to recover from that. Meanwhile, Jordan Hall is still working his way back from foot rehab, and according to Urban Meyer it's not clear whether Hall will play against California this weekend.
Therefore, it's true freshman Bri'onte Dunn atop the depth chart this week, with sophomore Rod Smith behind him. And while Ohio State could badly, badly use Hall back in the lineup for all the versatility he brings, having Dunn as the feature back is hardly a cause for concern for the Buckeye faithful.
The first thing you notice watching Bri'onte Dunn run the football is his irrepressible attack of the line. There's no backfield dancing, no hesitation—it's just hitting the hole as hard as he can.
The results in limited action are encouraging; not only is Dunn averaging five yards a carry with 12 rushes for 60 yards and a score, he hasn't been stopped for a loss yet this season. Granted, this is mostly in cleanup action so he probably wasn't facing the opposition's first unit, but don't forget that that means Dunn was running behind backups as well.
Of course, Dunn was a 5-star back for a reason, and that reason wasn't "can't read a hole worth anything." Where he stands apart is his ability to maximize yardage once he's at that point of attack. If he's waiting for a lane to open up, he's doing so while riding (and reading) the blocker in front of him, not doing so in the backfield. Once that hole opens up, Dunn's quick burst allows him to push toward to the next level of defense and get positive yardage.
Moreover, though we haven't gotten an opportunity to see Dunn bust this out yet in his limited opportunities at the collegiate level, he's an impressive open-field runner for his size. The way he changes angles and increases momentum to guide him and keep tracking defenders off-balance—especially when he makes a decisive turn upfield—is almost like watching a motorcycle dip into a turn to better maintain speed.
The biggest area where Dunn helps this Ohio State offense is in the red zone, and that's especially important with the team suddenly realizing that rushing Braxton Miller 44 times in two games (and 10 of those rushes on third- or fourth-and-short or inside the 10-yard line) is not entirely conducive to Miller's long-term health over the course of the season.
With a battering ram like Dunn up front, Ohio State can use Miller's legs on a more situational basis, and that's something that should continue once the full OSU backfield is, for lack of a better term, up and running.
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