Do the Ohio State Buckeyes Need a Dominant Running Back?

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Do the Ohio State Buckeyes Need a Dominant Running Back?
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Drew Thurman (12:05 pm)

The Big Ten Network has been previewing the season team by team, which included Ohio State this week. As bland as the coverage on the BTN can be at times, I will tune in to about anything that spends an hour talking about the Buckeyes.

One of the things that caught my attention was Gerry DiNardo's comments about Ohio State's need for a big-time running back. It also caught the attention of ESPN's Adam Rittenberg.

"DiNardo brought up a good point about the need for Ohio State to have a dominant running back again, and how it will keep defenses guessing against quarterback Terrelle Pryor."

Now I'm going to try to put my bias on hold because I don't hold DiNardo in real high esteem. I've often said that those who can't coach, commentate—and those who can't commentate, commentate on the Big Ten Network. Not only that, but DiNardo did pick Penn State to win the conference this year.

Okay, with that out of my system, does DiNardo have a point? Will running back by committee hurt the Buckeyes down the stretch?

Simply, the answer is no.

 

OSU doesn't need a dominant RB because of how richly talented the offense is this year...

As I stated earlier this week, I really believe this is the most diversely talented offense Jim Tressel has had in his tenure at OSU. Pryor has a whole bevy of passing options on every play, including guys like DeVier Posey, Dane Sanzenbacher, Jake Stoneburner, Brandon Saine, and Zach Boren.
If the offensive play-calling has the creativity to get guys like Stoney, Saine, and Boren catching passes on a consistent basis, there is no way opposing defenses can account for all the options. That's what is going to keep linebackers and defensive backs guessing and capitalize on Pryor's running ability.

Not to mention that DiNardo's comments really minimize the talented depth the Buckeyes have at running back. Saine and Dan Herron are seasoned veterans that dominated the best the Big Ten had to offer at the end of last season. Pryor was reeling, and defensive coordinators knew the Buckeyes were running the ball, yet Boom and Zoom helped OSU run for over 200 yards against PSU, Iowa, and Michigan.
Behind them you have Jordan Hall, who some call the best pure running back on the team. Then there are Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde, who were both recruiting gems, and Hyde appears to be getting major carries this season as the power option. So running back by committee doesn't look so bad!


OSU doesn't need a dominant RB because they depend on the position too much...

This may actually be more important than the previous point. Tressel's conservative nature really comes out when he has a dominant running back, and at times this constricts the offense.
A great example of this was the Beanie Wells era, when the offense was placed on his shoulders. During his sophomore and junior seasons the offense lacked creativity and consistency, and big plays were dependent on him breaking a long run. The offense looked at lot like Wisconsin's, and not like one on a championship-caliber team. 

If the Rose Bowl was an example of what we will see this year, that will not be the problem at all. The offensive play-calling in that game utilized the intermediate passing game, screen passes, and the backs and tight ends. It was creative and unpredictable, and it freed Pryor up to take over the game.
It wasn't a dominant running back that kept Oregon's defense guessing that game; it was dominant play-calling that spread the ball around.

I mean seriously, the Buckeyes will accumulate plenty of rushing yards between Pryor and the stable of backs behind him. They did that last year. What is going to take the offense to the next level is diversity and balance of play-calling.
The landscape of the Big Ten is slowly changing to match that of the rest of college football. You can't just bruise your way to a championship with a power running game; defensive coordinators are too smart for that. Instead, the Buckeyes will reach an eighth title if (and only if) they stay balanced on offense and spread the ball around.
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