Ohio State coach Urban Meyer doesn’t know how he’ll dole out the carries among his running backs against Florida A&M on Saturday, knowing he can’t possibly use all as much as he wants.
But he’s also been in a position during his career where he’s looked at his depth chart and saw no one he trusts. He’s glad those days are over.
“I’ve been on the other side of that dilemma — who to hand the ball to? It’s not pleasant,” he said.
The Buckeyes gained 332 yards on the ground against Cal last week and are getting ready to add a second-team All-Big Ten pick to the mix. Senior Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 970 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in 10 games last season, has been reinstated after a three-game suspension.
Senior Jordan Hall was the primary ball carrier in Hyde’s absence and flourished, while freshman Dontre Wilson also has established himself as a playmaker.
Hall is fifth in the nation with 402 rushing yards through three games and is tied for first in rushing TDs with six. But he had a hefty 30 carries against Cal, and he shouldn’t expect that many totes again with Hyde back in the rotation.
“He’s not at the top of the list — that’s not fair to the other guys — but he’ll play,” Meyer said of Hyde.
“He’s done everything and above what I’ve asked him to do. And it wasn’t easy. There were things behind the scenes that we didn’t (make public) because it was no one’s business.”
Asked what the 6-foot, 235-pound Hyde offers, Meyer said: “Power, break a tackle and a very good running back.”
The 5-9, 190-pound Hall was always more suited to play the hybrid position because of his quickness, and the Buckeyes can move him there for their final tune-up before Big Ten play.
“There’s only one football, and you have to be unselfish to win,” Hall said. “We’re trying to win and reach our goals at the end of the year.
“To me, (Hyde) is a help to the team. Carlos can run the ball, and it’s hard for a defense to prepare for two different types of backs.”
QB update: Meyer said Braxton Miller made progress from a sprained knee in practice Tuesday and Wednesday and should be available for limited duty this week. And the coach believes it’s important to get him back in action after missing almost two full games.
“I know he’s experienced, but he’s certainly not a finished product,” Meyer said.
The Buckeyes want to give Miller “as many reps as we can. The good news is there’s confidence in No. 13,” Meyer said, meaning Kenny Guiton.
Defense OK: Meyer said he’s pleased overall with his defense, though it was shredded for more than 500 yards by Cal. He believes some of the problems were due to the absence of defensive linemen Adolphus Washington (out again this week with a groin injury) and Tommy Schutt (sidelined until midyear with a fractured foot).
In his typical candid fashion, though, Meyer zeroed in on linebacker as an area of weakness.
“There are some misses in recruiting at linebacker. Call it what it is, but our linebackers should have more depth, more experience than what we have,” he said. “That’s the one concerning position right now.”
Encore, encore: The average distance for the 13 career TD catches for junior receiver Devin Smith is 44.3 yards.
He hooked up with Guiton against Cal for the longest play from scrimmage in OSU history, a 90-yard bomb — part of a three catch, 149-yard day. But Smith is looking to shake his inconsistency.
“The coaches tell me not to have big games like Saturday and then not play very well, but I already knew that myself,” Smith said. “(Offensive coordinator Tom) Herman talks about being an everyday guy, and that’s what I’m working on.”
Smith also had a 47-yard TD reception against Cal, and Meyer said: “That’s what it looks like when you have some guys making plays down the field. We couldn’t have done that a year ago.”
The previous longest play at OSU was an 89-yard run by Gene Fekete in 1942. The longest pass play was an 86-yarder from Art Schlichter to Calvin Murray in 1979. Smith didn’t know he had broken the mark until the flight home.
“Sitting on the plane, as that was going through my head, I couldn’t believe it,” Smith said. “Being in the record books at Ohio State is unreal.”
Ohio State (3-0) vs. Florida A&M (1-2), noon, Big Ten Network, 1410