NCF Nation: Roderick Smith

Ohio State doesn't know if it has an Eddie George or an Archie Griffin or a Beanie Wells on the roster.

[+] EnlargeSaine
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesBrandon Saine could play a larger role in the passing game next season.
None of the Buckeyes' current running backs has distinguished himself as a potential featured guy. Then again, several candidates haven't had the chance to do so ... yet.

What Ohio State knows it has at running back is options. Lots of them. More than they've had in recent memory.

"Without question," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said when asked if this is the most running back depth Ohio State has had during his tenure. "Going into [spring practice], yeah. There's some good depth at tailback, a position where you always need to have it."

Senior Brandon Saine and junior Dan "Boom" Herron entered spring practice atop the depth chart after combining for 1,339 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 307 carries in 2009. Neither man has established himself as a featured back, but both came on strong late in the season.

Saine had 232 rushing yards on 37 carries (6.27 ypc) in Ohio State's final three games, wins against Iowa, Michigan and Oregon. He had several breakaway runs against the Hawkeyes and Wolverines, and his true versatility showed in the Rose Bowl, as he caught two passes for 59 yards and a score. Herron, primarily a between-the-tackles runner, also had multiple receptions in his final two games last fall, and Bollman hinted that both backs would play larger roles in the passing game this fall, especially since Ohio State is thinner at wide receiver than running back.

"There's a lot of knowledge on what Boom and Brandon can do," Bollman said. "Should we have them carry the ball 50 times a day? I don't know if that accomplishes what we or they need. To help them increase their overall knowledge of the game, blitz pickup, being a bigger part of the passing game, trying to extend those guys that way is one way for us to approach things. And really test some of the younger guys carrying the ball."

Who are the young guys? Get out a pen and a big sheet of paper.

Jordan Hall stepped up nicely as a true freshman last fall, rushing for 248 yards on 48 carries (5.2 yards per rush). Sophomore fullback Jermil Martin brings a big body (5-foot-10, 235) to the backfield and averaged 7.6 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman in 2009.

Then there's redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry, the most talked-about back on the Buckeyes' roster. Fans wanted to see Berry last fall, but a nagging hamstring injury kept him sidelined. The heralded recruit from Miami is now in a position to compete for carries.

"He showed flashes of some things he can do," Bollman said, "but [he's] got to improve, got to become much more consistent, a guy that everybody can trust. Jordan got a lot of game experience, much more than he or us probably would have thought, and did a really good job. He really had an outstanding year last year.

"Those are a couple good guys to be battling for those next couple spots."

Carlos Hyde, another 2009 recruit, also is in the mix after spending last year at Fork Union Military Academy to boost his academics. Ohio State signed two more backs in February: decorated recruit Roderick Smith and Adam Griffin, the son of Archie.

"When you have all those guys, the secret is everybody progressing as a team," Bollman said. "If everybody starts worrying about how many touches they're getting, then it's easy for the whole thing to come apart at the seams. You've got to stay unified and understand roles."

Ohio State recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
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Ohio State Buckeyes

The class

Recruits: 18 (16 high school seniors, two prep school players, one player enrolled already)

Top prospects: Defensive back Christian Bryant should see the field early. Running back Roderick Smith could be a factor as the starting job remains a bit unsettled. Linemen Darryl Baldwin and Andrew Norwell and wide receivers James Louis and Corey Brown also come in with plenty of accolades.

Sleepers: Speedy Bradley Roby is a late signee who only gained major attention in recruiting after switching from wide receiver to cornerback as a senior. Quarterback Taylor Graham struggled with injuries in high school but has a good pedigree as the son of former NFL QB Kent Graham. Defensive tackle Johnathon Hankins is a big body on the interior.

Needs met: Ohio State addressed a mini need in the secondary with Bryant and Roby. The Buckeyes would have liked one more offensive lineman -- Seantrel Henderson or Matt James -- but they added depth at both wide receiver and running back.

Analysis: Ohio State might not have hit a home run with this class, and the Buckeyes lost a few key in-state products to other teams, namely Jordan Hicks. But Jim Tressel and his staff brought in plenty of speed and versatility, and added several key wide receivers who could contribute early following graduation losses and Lamaar Thomas' transfer. Unless Henderson dumps USC in the coming weeks, Ohio State will need to add more offensive linemen in the 2011 class.

Scouts Inc. grade: B

What Jim Tressel said:

  • "If you asked coach [Jim] Bollman how many offensive linemen he would have liked, we had pigeonholed two. He probably would have liked three or four, but we could afford two within our budget. So we'll see how we end up there."
  • "With the way the game has changed, you need so many guys who can play out in space. In this class, we have a lot of guys with skills and speed."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Illinois picks up a major commit at tight end, while Penn State bolsters its quarterback position and other teams add key pieces. Here's your latest recruiting rundown in the Big Ten.

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz
  • Quick take: Fiedorowicz is a big get for the Illini, who lose starting tight end Michael Hoomanawanui after the 2009 season. Illinois also will be breaking in a new starting quarterback and could lose superstar wideout Arrelious Benn to the NFL draft, so Fiedorowicz should be a big help during the transition.

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Things have slowed down a bit for the Hoosiers, who are still glowing from the commitment of defensive end Jibreel Black from Cincinnati. Indiana has found a good offense-defense balance so far in the 2010 class.

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch, tackle Andrew Donnal
  • Quick take: Both lines have been the focus of Iowa's recruiting so far, and the Hawkeyes made a big splash with Donnal, who could protect his fellow Ohioan Ricky Stanzi at some point down the line. At least seven of Iowa's commits could contribute on the offensive or defensive lines.

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: The nucleus for Michigan's 2010 class is in place, and the team hasn't added a commit since Courtney Avery on June 20. There are a ton of great athletes in this group, and Michigan likely will turn its attention to line play to wrap up the class.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: After landing its first seven commits from within state borders, Michigan State went into enemy territory -- or Mark Dantonio's home state, depending on how you look at it -- to pick up offensive linemen Travis Jackson and Michael Dennis. The two Ohio natives balance out a class that is shaping up well for the Spartans.

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Gophers already have a strong in-state recruiting haul, and they went to the southeast for running back Donnell Kirkwood, a workhorse-type back who generated a lot of interest. Minnesota also remains in the mix for arguably the nation's biggest prize, local product Seantrel Henderson.

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Pat Fitzgerald should never have a hard time recruiting linebackers, and Northwestern landed a good one -- with a good name -- in Chi Chi Ariguzo from Columbus, Ohio. Ariguzo can also play safety and should contribute on special teams early in his career. Northwestern has yet to land an in-state prospect.

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham, running back Roderick Smith
  • Quick take: A quiet week for the Buckeyes after filling their backfield needs with Smith and quarterback Taylor Graham. Ohio State hopes to go back into Florida for star linebacker Jeff Luc and possibly linebacker Deon Rogers.

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 12
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes, quarterback Robert Bolden
  • Quick take: Does Penn State currently have the Big Ten's best recruiting class for 2010? It sure looks that way as Bolden gives the Nittany Lions six watch list commitments out of 12 overall. Both Bolden and Paul Jones should be able to operate effectively in the Spread HD offense.

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: The quality of Purdue's commits seems to be getting better as quarterback Sean Robinson and defensive tackle Josh Davis came aboard. Robinson joins Marve and Caleb TerBush in the quarterback mix, while Davis boasts excellent size (6-foot-5, 250) for a young interior lineman.

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: The quarterback position might be a question mark this season, but it's shaping up well for the future as Joseph Brennan committed to the Badgers. Brennan has good mechanics and accuracy, and he should get better with increased strength. Cameron Ontko could be a contributor at fullback or H-back down the line.

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