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Ohio State

2 backs rush in to void left by Wells

COLUMBUS - If there were a Mount Rushmore equivalent carved into the side of Ohio Stadium to honor the Buckeyes' greatest running backs, Dan "Boom" Herron knows the faces that would be etched there in stone.

He also wants room for one more.

"Everybody remembers Archie Griffin, Eddie George, Beanie Wells," Herron said. "I want my name to be in that category. I want everybody to remember me as being a great back."

As the Buckeyes work through their spring practice in preparation for the 2009 football season, Herron and Brandon Saine are in competition for the starting job at tailback, vacated by Wells' early exit for the NFL.

When Herron mentions Griffin, George and Wells, he cites a heavily decorated group. Those first two guys left Ohio State with Heisman Trophies, and the third one likely could have, if not for injuries in 2008, or his decision to skip his senior season.

Herron, who ran for 439 yards and six touchdowns last season as a redshirt freshman while averaging almost five yards per carry, said it is time for the next generation to emerge in the Buckeyes backfield.

"Everyone says 'Beanie's gone', so we're just working hard and trying to show the coaches we can do it without Beanie," Herron said.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has indicated that he might split the work between Herron and Saine, with incoming freshmen Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde also potentially figuring in the rotation.

Wells was a huge part of the OSU offense, gaining almost 1,200 yards last season, and close to 3,400 over three years.

"There aren't any guys in the country like him," Tressel said. "When you lose a Beanie Wells, you have to get a little bit more creative, but I like our other guys. Boom Herron and Brandon Saine - they can play."

Saine had few opportunities to show his talent in 2008 because injuries hampered his performance throughout the season. He had just 26 carries for 65 yards and one touchdown, after scoring a couple of touchdowns and getting 60 carries as a freshman in 2007.

"Last year was kind of difficult, so I guess this would be somewhat of a rebound year," a healthy Saine said, adding that both he and Herron are aware of the spotlight that shines on the OSU tailback.

"I'm focused on spring practice right now. There will be a little bit of pressure, but we've been playing with Beanie, and we know what we need to do."

Herron said that after two years of Wells being the clearly defined dominant back, his departure has forced both Saine and Herron to push harder.

"I knew coming in that we were in the same class and we were going to compete, no matter what, and I just love the competition," Herron said. "It makes us both better."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.

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