Plenty of options for Ohio State offense
COLUMBUS – Ohio State’s offense is full of options. Its backfield is not so well stocked these days, though.
Going into its football game against California on Saturday, OSU could be forced to rely on its No. 3 running back, freshman Bri’onte Dunn, and its No. 4 back, Rod Smith, to man the tailback position.
Projected starter Jordan Hall has not played yet this season because of foot surgery and Carlos Hyde, the starter in the first two games, is out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee.
Hall has been cleared medically to return to practice but whether he can play on Saturday is still in doubt.
That means Dunn, Smith, fullback Zach Boren and even wide receiver Corey Brown could be getting the ball from OSU’s real No. 1 running threat so far, quarterback Braxton Miller.
Dunn has gained 60 yards on 12 carries. Smith has 26 yards on 6 carries and Boren has 26 yards on 9 carries.
“We have to get those guys ready to go,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said about Dunn and Smith on Monday at his weekly press conference.
“Talent is not an issue anywhere at running back at Ohio State. If he (Dunn) has a good Tuesday and Wednesday in practice, I’d be very comfortable with him.”
Meyer was less than comfortable with Dunn’s performance against Cent-ral Florida. “He had some glaring missed assignments,” the OSU coach said.
“It’s one thing getting your mind right to be a backup or third-string tailback for a game. It’s another thing to get your mind right to jog out with the first team offense.
Those kids are talented so it’s not like we have bad player back there. I have to look in their eyes, see who can handle it,” he said.
Runningbacks coach Stan Drayton said it is possible Hall could return but that he would have to prove in practice that he was ready for game action.
“There is a chance of Jordan playing this week. He’s right at the end of his timeline for rehab. He has been somewhat cleared but we have to go on a day to day basis how he feels. We’ll see. He’s been medically cleared but it’s up to him on a daily basis,” he said.
Drayton said he will be “very, very nervous” if Dunn don’t play better in practice this week than they did in last Saturday’s game.
“Those younger backs, Bri’onte Dunn and Rod Smith, based on performance last week, were not very good. But we wipe the slate clean every week.
“They have to run the ball. They have to be solid in protection. They have to do things in the pass game. They have to be able to read defenses and read routes. There are a lot of things that have to be checked off that list before they’re cleared to play,” he said.
“Right now I’m not nervous but if it starts to look like it did on game day, I will become very, very nervous.”
Freshman tailback Warren Ball is also out indefinitely because of foot surgery.
Drayton said he thought five tailbacks would be enough to keep OSU well stocked at that position when the season began.
“In my mind I need to have three prepared to play every week. I feel like we have enough back there to get it done,” he said.
KICKOFF TIME FOR UAB GAME: Ohio State’s game against Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 22 will have a noon kickoff and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
INJURY UPDATE ON WILLIAMS: Defensive lineman Nathan Williams did not play last week against Central Florida after soreness developed in his surgically repaired right knee when he played around 30 plays in the opener against Miami.
His status for today’s game is uncertain and that could be a continuing situation for the fifth-year senior, who had microfracture surgery last year.
“I’m hoping we’ll have him this week,” Meyer said. “But I think for the next 10 weeks it’s going to be ‘How’s Nathan Will-iams doing?’ and it’s probably going to be the same response.”
INJURY UPDATE ON BENNETT: Defensive lineman Michael Bennett will be out at least two more weeks with a groin injury.
Meyer said an MRI on Bennett showed “some damage in there.”
TOO MANY BIG PLAYS: Ohio State has allowed seven passing plays of more than 20 yards in its first two games.
“We have to stop giving up big plays. That has to stop now,” Meyer said.