Ohio State senior running back Carlos Hyde had to spend preseason camp working with the backups and the first three weeks of the season on the scout team because of his suspension.
The second-team All-Big Ten pick left practice each day a little roughed up and a tad humiliated — sort of like going through hazing after pledging for a fraternity. But running backs coach Stan Drayton believes the experience was beneficial.
“I wish I could raise every back that way. I wish I could send every back down to the scout team for a few weeks because of the positives of it,” Drayton said. “No. 1, you’re going to play on contact, for sure. You’re playing with a younger offensive line and you’re not getting the movement (off the line of scrimmage). You have to develop that skill set of playing through contact.
“But I think mentally, it was an unbelievable advantage for him. Being a starting tailback a year ago and having to play a backup role and a service role on the scout team made him extremely hungry. It made him not take for granted the opportunities he has in front of him.”
Hyde certainly seems to have a new appreciation for his status with the Buckeyes. After rushing for 168 yards and three TDs against Northwestern on Oct. 5 in his first extensive action of the year, he broke down in tears in a postgame interview and said: “Since I missed three games, I can’t get those games back. I go out every game with the mindset I have to make up for those three games.”
Hyde likely will carry the rushing load the rest of the way, and his bruising style and a punishing offensive line could be a productive combination for the Buckeyes.
Coach Urban Meyer calls the senior-led O-line the strength of the team, and Drayton said all his backs are grateful for the running lanes they’re seeing.
“Anytime you have a veteran offensive line that is kind of playing with the quality they’re playing with right now, it just instills all types of confidence in the running back,” Drayton said. “It allows that running back not to worry about first level of the defense … and kind of take a peek and see what’s going on at the second and third level.”
Thanks largely to the work of center Corey Linsley, guards Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell and tackles Jack Mewhort and Taylor Decker, the Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in scoring at 46.8 points per game after leading the conference last year at 37.2.
They’re averaging 492.8 yards per game, up from 423.8 last year.
“They are just rocking off the ball,” Drayton said of the line. “They don’t have any indecision. There’s no hesitation in their first step. They’re getting a lot of looks from defenses, too. They’re getting a lot of twists, a lot of movement, some gap exchange and things like that.
“But they’ve very confident in their targets, and once they get engaged, they’re moving people. That’s a great formula for productive running.”
Injury news: The defensive line should be at full strength for Iowa on Saturday. Defensive tackle Tommy Schutt (fractured foot) has been practicing full tilt after missing the first six games.
“Tommy Schutt had a great day yesterday. I’d put him as game ready,” Meyer said on the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday. “(Defensive line coach Mike Vrabel) is really excited about it — especially facing this outfit that’s a very big, physical, offensive line. You’d like to have a rotation of defensive linemen, and (Schutt) gives us a rotation now.”
Miller sharper: Braxton Miller is the unquestioned No.1 quarterback for the Buckeyes, but he needs to take better care of the ball after two lost fumbles in a 40-30 win over Northwestern.
As for how he’s looked in practice since then, Meyer said: “I see a guy I wanted to see, a guy who recognized the mistakes he made and is going to work hard to correct them.
“To me, it’s all about ball security. And I think he had a couple misreads in the pass game. But other than that, I thought he had a heckuva game. That fourth quarter was a powerful statement for what kind of quarterback he can be.”
Iowa (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) at Ohio State (6-0, 2-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC, 1410