Buckeyes' Herron ready to lower the boom

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Dan Herron grew up watching Jerome Bettis flatten defenders and tried to emulate the NFL star known as "The Bus."

The problem? Herron was built like a Miata.

Despite a smallish frame, Herron from an early age found ways to play bigger.

"When I was in little league football, I used to always run everybody over," Herron said.

It earned him the nickname "Boom," as in the sound heard when he made contact with opposing defenders. All these years later, when the 5-foot-10 Herron gets involved in a collison, he's usually not the one getting the worst of it.

Still, the Ohio State sophomore gets underestimated.

"They may not know my strength," Herron said. "They may look at my size and think, 'Hey, he's just a little guy. He's not going to bring that much power.' But when I hit 'em, it's like, 'Oh.'"

Herron's size might still leave Buckeye Nation a bit uneasy as the team tries to replace a running back who looked big and played bigger.

Chris "Beanie" Wells checked in at 237 pounds and punished Big Ten defenders with a bruising running style. Wells could stiff-arm safeties like Wisconsin's Shane Carter and hurdle others like Illinois' Donsay Hardeman, producing a size/speed/strength combination rarely seen among college backs.

No one expects another Wells to emerge in Columbus, but the hope is Herron, speedy junior Brandon Saine or one of two incoming freshmen (Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde) can emerge as a featured back. Herron boasts the most experience, having started three games for the injured Wells last fall.

He eventually gave way to Wells but finished with 439 rush yards on 89 carries (4.9 average). And Herron quietly finished the season strong, recording touchdowns in each of his final four games (two against Michigan on Nov. 22). He's listed as the top back on Ohio State's spring depth chart.

"I'm approaching it like I have to be the leader of the group," he said. "I got a lot of experience last year, and a lot of people are looking at me to do a lot for this team this year. The coaches are going to put who they want to put on the field, but to be the starter, you need to put it in your head that, 'Hey, this is my job,' and show the coaches that I can do it."

Despite his nickname and uncompromising running style, Herron knows he has to be smart with his body.

Every running back has a shelf life for number of hits he can take. And though Herron has gotten by as a smaller player, he knew he needed to add weight during the offseason.

After playing between 195-198 pounds last fall, Herron shot up to 212 pounds before trimming down to 205.

"I want to stay around that weight," he said. "I still have my quickness and my speed."

Not to mention a little more bulk for the occasional boom.