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Meyer insists his offense is running back-friendly

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has always put together cutting-edge offenses that have produced piles of points. But if you’re a top high school running back looking for a system that revolves around you, Meyer’s program probably isn’t the best fit.

At least that’s what opposing coaches are telling recruits — and they have some ammo to back that up.

In Meyer’s 11 previous seasons, he’s never had a 1,000-yard running back. Several backs have come close, but his spread offense has done exactly what it’s designed to do — distribute the ball to multiple playmakers.

Still, Meyer has shown he’s a fan of the power running game, and his teams need to run between the tackles to make his system work. Carlos Hyde, a 6-foot, 230-pound senior, rushed for 970 yards last year and certainly would have topped 1,000 if he hadn’t missed two games with a sprained knee.

Meyer pointed out he’s had other running backs who would have reached four digits if not for injuries. And his teams at OSU, Florida, Utah and Bowling Green have generated some prodigious rushing numbers. Six of the 11 had more than 2,700 yards collectively.

“I’m tired of hearing that, man,” Meyer said when asked about the lack of a 1,000-yard running back.

Meyer smiled as he spoke and didn’t get the least bit testy during follow-up questions. But he clearly feels he’s getting a bad rap.

“We had one guy get 970 and then one 890. And then (Florida’s) Jeff Demps was going to be that guy down there and he gets hurt,” he said.

“It’s nuts. If someone wants to question whether we run the ball effectively, I think, fairly, over 12 years, we’ve run the ball really well. Just in recruiting and all that other nonsense — we can’t anticipate guys missing games for whatever reason.”

Meyer drew laughter when he peered at his inquisitor and said: “Thanks for bringing that up. … Some guys just leave their press conferences (when they get questions they don’t like). I might start doing that.”

Meyer doesn’t find much humor, though, in the negative recruiting he encounters. He said he hears about how his offense doesn’t fit certain personnel “a couple hundred times a year.” But he and his staff are always ready to refute that.

He said some detractors say “our offensive linemen don’t get developed, and then we have all these first-round draft picks. I remember they were saying our offense doesn’t develop receivers, and then the last seven receivers we coached are not only playing, but they’re starting in the National Football League.”

As far as running backs being ill-suited for Meyer’s system, he said: “You hear it, but you just have to be armed and ready. (Recruits) see the yards per carry. They see the opportunities you get. That really helps. And then you tell them about the guys who were injured or missed games, and that they certainly would be 1,000-yard rushers.

“We even make videos, and that’s all part of the recruiting process when they come here. I’d like to think that’s why our staff is pretty good at recruiting. When a guy wants to come here, we say, ‘Here’s exactly how you’re going to be used. Here’s the results of other players that have your body type.’”

Meyer has had one 1,000-yard rusher in his career — quarterback Braxton Miller, who racked up 1,271 last season. And Hyde could crack that barrier this year despite missing the first three games because of a suspension.

After being eased back into action, he rushed for 168 yards on 26 carries against Northwestern in the Buckeyes’ last outing, bringing his season total to 294.

If he maintains his current pace of 98 yards per game, which hardly seems a stretch, he’ll hit 1,078 yards, assuming the Buckeyes play in the Big Ten title game and a bowl game.

In Meyer’s mind, Hyde is the perfect ball carrier for his system. When defenses are spread out across the width of the field, bulky backs are tough to bring down in one-on-one situations.

The Buckeyes also have two more bruisers waiting their turns in junior back-up Rod Smith (6-3, 232) and sophomore Bri’onte Dunn (6-0, 220), who’s being redshirted this year.

“I think there’s no doubt, I love having big backs,” Meyer said. “It’s finding them and making sure that they are powerful, fast guys, and we’ve got one with Carlos.”

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