Buckeyes' Hyde hits his stride

OSU senior would be Meyer’s first 1,000-yard running back

10/31/2013
BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde gets past Iowa’s Anthony Hitchens, right. Hyde has 590 yards on 88 carries with seven touchdowns this year.
Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde gets past Iowa’s Anthony Hitchens, right. Hyde has 590 yards on 88 carries with seven touchdowns this year.

Hyde.
Hyde.

COLUMBUS — Have you heard the news? A team coached by Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has never produced a 1,000-yard running back.

“I’m tired of hearing that, man,” he said.

Meyer probably should be. The statistic has been recited ad nauseam — including by rival recruiters who cast his spread offense as an abyss for tailbacks — and it is deceptive. Three of the last four teams Meyer coached ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing yards and the Buckeyes this year are averaging 295 ground yards per game.

At a recent news conference, Meyer cut off a reporter inquiring about the 1,000-yard drought.

“Some guys just like leave their press conferences,” he said with a smile. “I might start doing that.”

Soon, though, Carlos Hyde may improbably make the question moot.

As long as the senior who calls himself El Guapo keeps making opponents say “no mas” — his weekly goal — Hyde will reach the stubborn four-digit threshold OSU backs once passed year after year.

Despite being suspended the first three weeks, Hyde is on course with 464 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in the fourth-ranked Buckeyes’ last three games. He has 590 yards on 88 carries overall — a 6.7-yard average — heading into the final four games of the regular season.

Hyde said it feels like Groundhog Day, the arc of his high school and college careers strangely similar. He recalled running for 970 yards as a junior at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, then letting loose for 1,653 yards as a senior. Now, after rushing for 970 yards as a junior at Ohio State, he is hoping for a similar finale.

“My senior year of high school, I just came out at another level,” Hyde said this week. “I kind of feel like it’s all happening again, and it’s pretty cool to see it happening at this level.”

To get here, he has traveled a winding path.

Hyde was suspended after an altercation with a woman at a Columbus bar in July and fell out of favor with Meyer, saying he didn’t hear from his coach the rest of the summer. But he steadily regained the staff’s trust. He finished fall camp at 230 pounds — down 10 pounds from last year — led the scout-team offense to begin the season, and quickly became the back Meyer trusted most upon his return.

In an unintended byproduct of the suspension, Hyde is just gaining traction as others are wearing down.

“I feel like I’m fresh,” he said. “I had those three games off. My body is still starting to get going. These past few game, I've played big, and I feel this is just the start.”

Saturday at Purdue, as always, Hyde will attempt to make the opposition cry, “uncle.” A self-described “violent runner,” he often does his best work late. Hyde ran for 112 yards and three touchdowns in the second half of OSU’s comeback win at Northwestern.

"We like to call it ‘no mas,’ ” Hyde said. “It’s pretty easy to tell when guys don’t want any more. They don’t want to tackle you anymore, and the offensive line is blowing guys up.”

If Hyde has his way, he will also blow up the perception a back can’t thrive in Ohio State’s spread offense.

The topic visibly irritates Meyer. Though he has never had a running back rush for 1,000 yards — a mark quarterback Braxton Miller blew past last year — it is not because he devalues the run. At Florida in 2008, for instance, quarterback Tim Tebow, wideout Percy Harvin, and scat backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps each rushed for more than 600 yards.

“If someone wants to question whether we run the ball effectively, I think we have over the last 12 years run the ball really well,” Meyer said. “Just in recruiting and all that other nonsense, we can't anticipate guys missing games for whatever reason.

“Thanks for bringing that up.”

JUST WAIT: Was Saturday night the kind of game hyped freshman receiver Dontre Wilson had been waiting for after weeks of spare use?

“It was close, but I haven’t gotten it yet,” he said. “You’ll know when I get it. I’ll break like a 70-yarder, and you’ll know.”

The 5-foot-10, 174-pound Texas native is evolving into more than what Meyer called a "novelty." Against Penn State, Wilson had a 49-yard kickoff return, turned a swing pass into a 26-yard touchdown, and saw significant time on offense.

“I saw a guy who on one of our big plays was blocking,” Meyer said. “That means he’s learning to be a full‑time member [of the offense]. ... Wait until you see him next year. We’ll get him big and strong. He’s gained 15 pounds since he’s been here. He’s a great practice player. In Friday walkthroughs, he’s going full speed. He's one of those guys you got to have around.”

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.