Ohio State’s offense started the 2015 season much like it ended the 2014 season, marching down the field and scoring with ease on its first drive Monday night at Virginia Tech.
There was one change. The player who scored the first touchdown against the Hokies touched the ball just once in the Sugar Bowl and twice in the national championship game.
Not many people would have predicted Curtis Samuel would open the season for Ohio State with a 24-yard touchdown catch, but he made a diving grab to snag a ball quarterback Cardale Jones heaved off his back foot. Virginia Tech nickel back Greg Stroman interfered with Samuel. Samuel made the catch anyway.
“It was great for me to go out there and put some points on the board for my team,” Samuel said. “It was a great feeling. I had a couple rushing touchdowns last season, but to get a receiving touchdown was great.”
Samuel scored six rushing touchdowns last season as a true freshman. He appeared in all 15 games and gained 383 yards on 58 carries. He also caught 11 passes for 95 yards.
Samuel scored the last two touchdowns of the 59-0 victory against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game. Samuel and Ezekiel Elliott split carries through the first three games, but Samuel’s role diminished after that as Elliott established himself as the go-to running back.
To give Samuel a better chance of earning playing time this season, Ohio State moved him to hybrid back in the spring.
“I’m definitely comfortable at the H now,” Samuel said. “I was there all spring. I had some little bumps, ups and downs. It was tough getting used to playing the H role. I’m used to it now. I feel comfortable there.”
Samuel may still have trouble finding playing time. Braxton Miller will start the home opener at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Hawaii. The depth chart lists Samuel as Miller’s backup.
Two other players who played H-back last season, Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, return from suspension Saturday. They’re listed on the depth chart as wide receivers.
It’s likely they’ll all play. The questions are: “Where?” and “How much?”
“We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who are playmakers,” Samuel said. “Whoever can make plays, those are the guys who are going to be on the field.”
Miller made the biggest plays at Lane Stadium. The spin move that freed him for his 53-yard touchdown run was still the hot topic Wednesday when the media talked to Samuel.
“I’ve seen it a couple of times on Instagram,” Samuel said. “It was definitely a good move. It wasn’t surprising. I know what he’s capable of doing.”
Asked if he had a spin move of his own, Samuel said, “Dontre had a spin move against Penn State (last season). Braxton had a good spin move. You’ve got to wait and see. I’ve got something.”