The Ohio State Buckeyes achieved perfection in 2012, going a perfect 12-0 in the regular season. An NCAA-sanctioned postseason ban kept OSU from playing for the BCS National Championship, but a perfect season is still an impressive feat. They wouldn’t have gotten there without running back Carlos Hyde stepping up following an injury to Jordan Hall and carrying the load in the running game. With a full season to work with, can Hyde take the next step and eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in 2013?
It’s not unreasonable to think so after he came within a breath of doing it in 2012. After Hall went down with a knee injury, Hyde became the featured back and carried the ball 150 times for 812 yards over the final seven games of the season. Over the entire season, Hyde ran the ball 185 times for 970 yards with 16 touchdowns, falling just 30 yards shy of the 1,000-yard barrier and that was with him missing two games with an MCL sprain early in the year.
There’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Hyde’s chances to shatter the 1,000-yard mark in 2013. He’ll have the whole season to amass that yardage, including potential trips to the Big Ten Championship game and a bowl game for a total of 14 games in 2013. That’s a lot of opportunities and he will be running behind an experienced offensive line that returns four starters from a year ago.
The rest of the offense has improved as well with Braxton Miller set to expand his passing ability in 2013 with a deeper and more experienced receiving corps. If the Buckeyes can consistently pass the football down the field, defenses will be forced to stay honest, which will prevent them from stacking the box against the run. That will benefit Hyde or whoever carries the ball and make the lines open up even wider.
But that isn’t to say it’s a sure thing. Hyde’s success in 2012 was due in no small part to the amount of work he got following Hall’s injury. Over the final seven games of the season, Hyde averaged 21.4 carries per game while the second leading running back, Rod Smith, carried the ball just 2.4 times per game. It isn’t likely that Urban Meyer will rely on that drastic a split again in 2013 with stable of running backs like Hyde, Smith, Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball all having strong springs. They will only get deeper in the fall when four-star running back Ezekiel Elliott joins the mix as well.
Also working against him is history. In the 11 years that Urban Meyer has been a head coach, despite all of the high-powered offenses he has called, he has never had a running back run for 1,000-yards in a season. The closest any running back has come under Meyer was Brandon Warfield back in 2003 when Meyer was head coach of the Utah Utes. Meyer’s offense just doesn’t feed the running backs enough to accumulate a bunch of yards. When it does, the head coach likes to use multiple backs to keep everyone fresh.
A Meyer offense is also so quarterback-centric, that most of the offense gets run through the man under center. That was evident last season when Miller led the Buckeyes in rushing, carrying the ball 40 more times than Hyde and gaining 1,271 yards with 13 touchdowns. The running back is the secondary option for Urban Meyer’s rushing attack, as it always has been and will continue to be next season.
So while it looks like Hyde should breeze past the 1,000-yard mark in 2013, there are some major obstacles in his way that could result in a step back for the senior tailback. The depth at running back is going to be phenomenal for Ohio State next season and Meyer is likely to spread the touches around depending on the situation. Whoever is in the backfield, however, will have to play second fiddle to Miller, who will continue to be the focal point of the offense.
Can Hyde overcome all of that and break the 1,000-yard mark next season?