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Ohio State football’s H-Back position will continue to evolve under new head coach Ryan Day

The trend of Ohio State’s H-Backs being more involved in the passing game will likely continue in 2019, with some tight ends possibly being added to the mix.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Ohio State vs Washington Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

“That position, that H position can take on a lot of different roles. It can be a third receiver. It could be a second running back, or it could be a second tight end based on the body type. We kind of have all those. We have Jeremy. We have Rashod (Berry). We have Demario McCall. We have K.J., obviously. We have C.J. (Saunders), Jaelen Gill. All those guys are kind of different body types in the same role.”

Ohio State football head coach Ryan Day on the H-Back position via Patrick Murphy, Bucknuts

When Urban Meyer came to Ohio State in 2012, one of the biggest changes he made to the offense was the introduction of the H-Back. The position became famous during his time in Florida when Percy Harvin was released on the college football world. While the Buckeyes never quite had someone at H-Back who had the impact of Harvin, what players like Curtis Samuel, Jalin Marshall, and others did at the position was nothing to sneeze at.

Over the last two years, the H-Back position at Ohio State has underwent a bit of a transformation. With Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins at running back, the Buckeyes didn’t need their H-Backs to be as involved in the running game as they did when players like Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson lined up at the position. After having at least one H-Back see at least 20 carries every year from 2013-16, over the last two years Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill saw a combined 22 carries. Because of the lack of a need to give the H-Back carries over the last two years, the position was heavily involved in the passing game, especially in 2018 when Campbell recorded 90 catches as the Buckeyes shattered a number of school passing records.

It seems likely that players like Demario McCall and Jaelen Gill seeing some carries at H-Back for the Buckeyes this year, don’t expect for the number to be similar to what Samuel saw during his time at Ohio State. In a bit of a different wrinkle, Day has been working with a couple tight ends at H-Back, with Jeremy Ruckert being a prime candidate to possibly see snaps at the position. With the position having evolved over the years during Meyer’s time at Ohio State, it already seems like Day is continuing with the trend and looking for new ways to keep opposing defenses on their toes.

“Look at the skill that we have there, ‘go out and compete’ for all of those guys. Go out here and play ball. Whoever has the best training camp... we as coaches have got to decide where to put them and get them on the field. I am going to be consistent with that, and that is how I talk to the players, and that is how I will be honest with you guys, and that is what we have to do, that is our jobs.”

Ohio State secondary coach Jeff Hafley on the safety position via Tony Gerdeman, The Ozone

For new secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, at least one part of Ohio State’s safety combination in 2019 was very easy to identify. Senior Jordan Fuller returns to the Buckeyes for his third year at starter, and will look to put a bow on a strong career in Columbus. Who will start next to Fuller in the fall isn’t nearly as easy to identify.

In the second half of last season, Brendon White started next to Fuller at safety. While White will likely still lineup at safety on passing downs, he will spend the bulk of his time at the new Bullet position. This leaves Jahsen Wint, Isaiah Pryor, and Shaun Wade to battle for the second starting safety spot.

Hafley and the rest of the coaching staff got a good look at the trio during spring practices, as Fuller was on the sidelines due to injury. Wade was the top strong safety for Ohio State during spring practices, while Pryor lined up at free safety. Even though Wade and Pryor saw a lot of reps during spring practices, Wint made a big impact during the spring game, stating his case for more playing time.

Even though there is still the question of who will play next to Fuller at safety, at least a little bit of the concern can be eased since the Buckeyes have a number of talented players who can fill the role. Wade is the most intriguing prospect after he came to Ohio State as a top-rated recruit, but Pryor and Wint have shown they belong as well. Whoever is tabbed as the starter will have the luxury of working in tandem with a veteran like Fuller. The competition in training camp should be exciting, and whoever comes out on top will have truly earned the starting position.

“I took some time off during May, went through rehab probably that whole month and worked on basic skill stuff, fundamental stuff while my body was healing. I took that time to really recover and I’m back fully covered now. I think my body really needed it, just to lighten up on the legs and stuff like that. It was good, just taking it slow and getting everything back to 100 percent.”

Ohio State forward Kyle Young via Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State was at its best last year when forward Kyle Young was on the floor. The sophomore brought plenty of energy and grit to the Buckeyes, and when he was on the floor with Andre and Kaleb Wesson, the trio had the best cumulative plus-minus rating for the Buckeyes.

The problem for Ohio State in the latter half of the year was that Young was limited by a stress fracture in his lower left leg. Young ended up missing five games in January and early February, and was limited after he returned, logging at least 25 minutes in just four of the final 14 games of the season. Young admits that he rushed coming back from the injury so he could get back on the court, but he has taken the time in the offseason to make he is fully recovered ahead of his junior season.

Making sure his body is healed from the stress fracture isn’t the only area in which Young has been working on this offseason. During his first two seasons, Young’s offensive game has been rather limited, but he is working on expanding his shooting range as he prepares for the final two years of his Ohio State career. Last year, Young shot 71.7 percent from the field, which led the Big Ten, but he only took 13.3 percent of his team’s shots while on the court.

With Young working on his shot, the junior could be primed for a breakout season for Ohio State. Even though the Buckeyes have a number of top recruits coming to Columbus, Ohio State will need the experience and toughness that Young provides. Any extra offense the Buckeyes can get from Young will be an added bonus, as Ohio State looks to reach the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season. With Young finally healthy, along with expanding his offensive game, expect to see a different Young on the floor the season for Ohio State.