Monday, October 15, 2012
Big back Hyde spreads wings for Buckeyes
By Adam Rittenberg
Growing up in Naples, Fla., Carlos Hyde didn't need a tutorial on Urban Meyer's offense.
He knew plenty about Meyer and the spread from Meyer's time as Florida's coach. Hyde also knew he wanted no part of it, even though he said Florida offered him a scholarship to play in Gainesville.
"When I saw this offense, it was little running backs," Hyde told ESPN.com. "Little scat backs running around, Percy Harvin-type dudes, Jeff Demps-type people. I wasn't sure I'd be able to fit in."
Carlos Hyde has made the most of his opportunities this season.
At 6-foot and 232 pounds, Hyde can be described as a lot of things. Little isn't one of them. He's a power back in the truest sense, so he chose to go where power backs go: Ohio State.
There was only one problem: Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel, who had featured power backs like Chris Wells and Maurice Clarett in his offense, resigned in the spring after Hyde's freshman season. Although Ohio State kept a similar offense in 2011, the school changed coaches and brought in Meyer.
"I was excited," Hyde said. "I knew Coach Meyer, his track record. He's won big games. He's won some national championships. I knew when he was coming here, I was like, 'I'm going to have a huge chance to get to play in the national championship before I leave college.'"
But his excitement was tempered by the same anxiety about whether he could fit into the spread as a bigger back.
"I never played in a spread offense, so I really didn't have a feel," Hyde said. "I wasn't sure. I never really saw a big back in the spread."
Meyer put Hyde at ease, pointing out that while he runs the spread and has had success with smaller, faster runners like Harvin and Demps, the system, at its core, is about power. Although Meyer on Monday said "there's no selling going on," he never told Hyde to become something he isn't.
"Coach Meyer just wanted me to be that power back," Hyde said. "I'm not trying to be no scat back. That's not my strength. Just be who I am, a power back and a hard-nosed runner."
It's exactly who he has been the past three weeks. After top running back Jordan Hall suffered a knee injury Sept. 29 against Michigan State, Hyde, coming off of a knee sprain, took over and rushed for 27 yards in the fourth quarter, including the final 5 yards to seal a 17-16 victory.
Hall's injury moved Hyde into the starting job, and the junior has made the most of his opportunity, recording back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances in wins against Nebraska and Indiana. Hyde and star quarterback Braxton Miller are the first Ohio State tandem to both eclipse 100 rush yards in consecutive games. Although Hall is on the mend and should return in the coming weeks, Meyer made it clear Monday: "Carlos won't be removed from tailback."
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Hall emerged as Ohio State's top running back in the spring, but Hyde entered the season knowing he'd have opportunities to play.
He performed well at times in 2011, racking up 100-yard performances against both Nebraska and Indiana midway through the season, but he only received a handful of carries in other games. After logging just three carries against Illinois, a game where Ohio State attempted only four passes, Hyde tweeted, "Guess I'm not good enough. Take myself elsewhere," setting off a brief panic among Buckeyes fans. He later deleted the tweet and confirmed his commitment to Ohio State, but his frustration was evident.
"I had my ups," Hyde said, "then I had my downs. Last year was definitely like a roller-coaster."
Aside from the knee sprain in Week 2, Hyde's 2012 season has been on a steady incline. After a slow start Saturday against Indiana, Hyde came alive in the final three quarters and finished with a team-high 156 rush yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, highlighted by a 21-yard burst on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Hyde also had two catches for 27 yards and a touchdown. He has eight touchdowns on the season, celebrating each one, by team rule, with the offensive line. ("That's the reason you got in the end zone," Hyde explains.)
"He didn't start strong [against Indiana]," Meyer said. "And he's finally to the point in his career where I can have grown-man conversations with him. It was great, he admitted that. ... He got real strong. By the end of the game, he was a man."
Hyde recorded career bests in carries (28), rushing yards (140) and touchdowns (four) against Nebraska, tying Eddie George's single-game team rush touchdowns record as Ohio State won 63-38.
"That was definitely a great experience in my career," he said. "... Eddie George was a big-time guy, and to tie his record, it's pretty sweet. But I still have plenty more games to go, so maybe I can beat his record."
George was a very big back who won the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State in an offense suited to his game. After some initial concerns, Hyde feels the same way about Meyer's spread.
"He's played really well," Meyer said. "His post-contact yardage is making us a really good offense."