Despite the transformation to the spread, the rushing attack is still as vital to the offense as it has always been at Ohio State. Urban Meyer's spread-option attack relies heavily on the run game, and with a dual-threat QB like Braxton Miller, it's the offense's "bread and butter."
Earlier in the season, Miller was asked to carry the ball an astronomical amount of times, and wasn't going to finish the season at that pace. However, as the season continued, sophomore running back Carlos Hyde began to make great strides as a back. In the last seven games, Hyde rushed for 125-plus yards four times and compiled 970 yards rushing over the season despite missing two games.
Now with news that Jordan Hall is being granted a medical redshirt for his injury-plagued 2012 season, the Buckeyes have some serious weapons in their backfield.
Other Buckeyes like Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn, Jalin Marshall or Ezekiel Elliot could make an impact in the rushing game depending on who emerges in the offseason. If I was a betting man, I would expect Jalin Marshall or Ezekiel Elliot to be this team's fourth leading rusher in 2013, mostly due to the versatility and speed they offer.
The Buckeye's third leading rusher will most likely be Jordan Hall. The fifth-year senior will also be included a great deal in the Buckeye's passing attack, which should limit his carries slightly.
Meyer seems content with Hyde's power style and I fully expect him to be the team's second-leading rusher. The bruising back made great strides as the season continued and should easily reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2013.
This of course leaves Braxton Miller as the Buckeyes' leading rusher for the third straight year. Hopefully the junior QB will have fewer carries in 2013, but even if he does, I still expect him to lead the team on the ground. He's the most gifted runner on the team and can spontaneously turn a two-yard gain into a 30-yard scamper at any given time.
In order for the Buckeyes to run the table again in 2013, Miller will have to make some big runs and use his feet as much as possible in tight games. However, the more help Hyde, a healthy Hall and another factor on the ground can provide, the better. Meyer must preserve Miller and ensure he remains healthy all season long, and this can't be accomplished without optimal contributions from other weapons.
Like I said, the Buckeye's "bread and butter" is still the ground game. It just turns out a lot better when all ingredients are used.