College football is a constant exercise in the title of this column. The very finite nature of the sport lends itself seamlessly to the concept. Players have a set number of years in which to hone their craft before heading off to greener pastures of one sort or another. Some have less than others. When you are buried on the depth chart of a loaded position, the chances become fewer and fewer.
That is, barring unforeseen and unfortunate injuries to the player(s) in front of you. Yet this is where the term derives. In college football, the next man up is often an underclassman just biding their time, waiting for their opportunity to shine. When it comes early in a career, it can be a blessing, albeit one in disguise. Yet this is where Urban Meyer finds himself at the running back position after Jordan Hall’s untimely surgery and still unclear timeline of return.
So we take a look at the running backs that will look to fill the void and be the next man up. Luckily for Coach Meyer, the stable is anything but empty, but he will have to consider giving one or more true freshman the pressure of being the man on the field. Urban has his choice of styles as well, so there should be no major changes in the game plans for the first couple of games, should Hall be forced out longer than he projects.
Let’s start with Jordan’s primary backup.
The difference in style between Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde is like night and day. Peanut butter and Nutella. While Hall is more of that slashing, finesse back, Hyde will smack you in the mouth until you beg him to stop. Then he’ll smack you once more for making him teach you a lesson. In Hyde, Meyer has that goal line bruiser that he can use to emulate the massive frame of Tim Tebow inside the 10 yard line. Hyde can simply run over you if there is no hole. This should prove very useful in the B1G, but it won’t fit Meyer’s “ideal” game plan.
Rod, older brother of Notre Dame commit Jaylon Smith, will need to work on his ball security if he wants to see significant time in Meyer’s offense. Fumbles kept him off the field after the Colorado game last year, and only he knows what kept him off the charter plane to Florida for the Gator Bowl. But Meyer will need Smith to be at his best in order to give Braxton and Carlos a rest during the first couple of contests, lest Urban have to turn to his two heralded freshmen…
Again, neither player is the hybrid, Brandon Saine/Percy Harvin type back, and both will once again punish you with continued Dave. While both are capable of catching passes out of the backfield, neither is one that you want to see try to fit themselves into Jordan’s shoes, especially this early in the season. You can expect to see these two on the sidelines for Miami and UCF, as their services likely won’t be needed. Urban is likely to lean heavily on Hyde and his most formidable offensive weapon:
Braxton should expect to shoulder most of the load for the Redhawks and Knights. The main respite that the Buckeyes have is that the two games that Hall is expected to miss are the “warmup” games that should figure heavily in Ohio State’s favor. These games will serve to get the rust off, work the kinks out, and get Braxton his first 200 yard rushing/300 yard passing game.
Miller should be on the phone daily with Jake Stoneburner, ensuring that he’s on the right path, because the big Tight End should be experiencing some déjà vu back to last season when he was the toast of the beginning of the season as Joe Bauserman’s favorite target. He should return to that spotlight again with Jordan on the sidelines.
One thing is for sure. Just as I trusted Jim Tressel explicitly to adapt and alter his team and gameplan to adjust to unforeseen circumstances, so do I explicitly trust Urban Meyer to do the same. While it may not be the ideal situation, and will certainly test Urban’s resolve and ability to adjust, Meyer has certainly been here before and come away with a crystal ball.
Jordan’s injury, while unfortunate, gives at least two others a chance to show Buckeye Nation that they too can be called upon to carry the load when tasked. I certainly have no doubts that Carlos, Rod, Bri’Onte, and Warren are up to the job.
And #7 will be there on the sidelines, cheering the loudest.