For the first time this season, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State Buckeyes have a fully loaded backfield.
To date, Meyer has shown up to each of his first four duels with a bullet missing in his chamber.
Jordan Hall injured his foot during the offseason, and his 10-week recovery sidelined the senior running back for Ohio State’s first two games of the year. Meyer’s other viable option at running back—Carlos Hyde—sprained his MCL the week before Hall’s debut.
The only constant has been Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s most dynamic playmaker.
On the road for the first time this Saturday, Meyer and the Buckeyes will have all three at their disposal to fire away at Michigan State.
"(Hyde) is ready to go, he’s been cleared,” Meyer said on Wednesday. “He’ll probably be braced up because he still needs if for the MCL for a little stability, but he’s cleared, he'll play."
This is good news for an Ohio State team that desperately needs big plays from the running back position.
So far, Braxton has been the only home-run threat out of the backfield. Jordan Hall’s longest run from scrimmage this year is 15 yards, while Hyde’s longest carry went for just 16 yards. By comparison, Miller has had long runs of 65 yards, 55 yards and 37 yards through four games as he leads the Buckeyes in rushing.
Getting Hyde back is huge, because it gives Ohio State the ability to put all three players in the backfield at once.
How often the coaching staff utilizes that kind of package won’t be known until Saturday. The Buckeyes won’t line up this three-headed monster exclusively because Zach Boren is too valuable as a blocker and leader to ride the bench for a majority of the game. But as an added wrinkle? You have to think Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have a package to get Miller, Hyde and Hall on the field together.
Could this trio run the shovel-option play that Tim Tebow executed so perfectly at Florida? The Gators typically used a running back and an H-back as options for Tebow, but it’s not impossible to imagine Hyde filling that role.
On a simpler scale, having both Hyde and Hall lining up on either side of Braxton in the backfield would present problems for an opposing defense, especially with a play like the triple option. Faking the zone-read and turning it into an option play with these two running backs could be a very effective play for Urban Meyer.
However Meyer chooses to utilize these three players together, the result will give opposing defenses a lot to think about.
That’s why Hyde’s return couldn’t have come at a better time for the Buckeyes. When Ohio State faces Michigan State on Saturday, they’ll be going up against the sixth-ranked defense in the country.
With Meyer’s backfield fully loaded, they’ll have the opportunity to give Michigan State their best shot.