Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Which non-RB would you like to see get some carries for Ohio State?
While I get a chance to go first on this edition of You’re Nuts, I have to give credit to my podcast co-host for coming up with this week’s topic. It’s hard to spin the idea of injuries into something positive, but this is a fun way to look at Ohio State’s situation at running back.
The Buckeyes have been plagued by injuries across the board all season, but things have been especially tough for the guys carrying the ball. Before the new campaign even began, Tony Alford’s position group was already down a man after Evan Pryor suffered a season-ending knee injury in preseason practice. That left Ohio State with just three scholarship players at running back, with one of them being freshman Dallan Hayden. TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams were expected to be the tandem getting the vast majority of carries before the season began anyway, but depth is always necessary as you never know what can happen.
What has happened is that both of the Buckeyes’ top backs have been injured at various points throughout the year. Henderson has played in seven of Ohio State’s 10 games this season, sitting out each of the last two games and seen on the sideline against Indiana in a walking boot. Williams has played in nine games, but has seemingly been playing through injury more often than not, and left the game against the Hoosiers with a lower leg injury that put him on crutches to finish the afternoon. With running-back-turned-linebacker-turned-running-back Chip Trayanum also sitting out against Indiana, that left the Buckeyes with Hayden and former walk-on Xavier Johnson as its only true running backs.
Now, Hayden and Johnson both looked really good against Indiana. The freshman carried the ball 19 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, while Johnson’s one carry resulted in a spectacular 71-yard touchdown run. The X-man also caught two passes for 47 yards, and is a very versatile weapon having played both tailback and receiver. Still, having just two guys available on the roster to run the football is obviously not ideal. So, in the spirit of You’re Nuts, this week we are going peruse the rest of the roster to decide who else would be a fun option to potentially run the football in an emergency scenario.
There are some really obvious choices here, and I am not going to take the cop-out answers of either Trayanum or Steele Chambers. Trayanum is technically already part of the running back room after playing the position at Arizona State, while Chambers came to Ohio State as running back before switching to linebacker, where he has thrived this year. There some other big, physical runners on this team that would likely be great candidates for this role, but the first guy that came to my mind is someone who is a bit undersized, but put together one of the greatest offensive high school careers the state of Michigan has ever seen.
That man, of course, is none other than safety Cameron Martinez. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he is far cry from the build of a man like Miyan Williams, who stands at 5-foot-9, 225, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in pure athleticism. The former Michigan Mr. Football, Martinez accounted for 47 total touchdowns as a senior, doing it all for Muskegon with an insane 2,100 yards rushing and 1,200 yards passing. In his 52 career games at the high school level, Martinez rushed for a ridiculous 6,954 yards — the 11th-most all-time in the Michigan High School Athletic Association. He did this all from the quarterback position, but he made his hay running the football.
Martinez helped Muskegon get to three state championship games and win a title during his career in the state up North. Obviously things are different at the next level, and he doesn’t actually have any true experience, at least to my knowledge, as an actual running back in his football playing career, but those numbers are too absurd to ignore. Heck, the kid has an over 9-minute long highlight tape of ONLY touchdowns! If things continue to go south in that Ohio State running back room — and, God willing it won’t come to this — but I am all aboard the Cam Martinez RB1 hype train.
(Also, as an aside, why the heck isn’t this man returning punts for the Buckeyes??)
Gene, I am old enough to remember when the Buckeyes had too many running backs. And we wondered how it was possible for this coaching staff to keep all mouths adequately fed. Especially with Henderson taking a lion’s share of the snaps, Williams acting as the short-yard specialist, Pryor the receiving threat, and so on... Boy, I sure am glad we don’t have to rack our brains with that conundrum each week!
Now Ohio State is one high ankle sprain away from full-on Mitch Rossi SZN, which I am almost here for. But I would rather avoid the fullback renaissance during November and December, with a (possible) national title on the line. I agree with my co-host that Hayden and the X-Man looked great against Indiana, but as we have seen all season, OSU really needs at least two full-time options available. And ideally, they would have dozens of college carries under their belt.
For Buckeye fans, it certainly appears as if we packed bags for a nice little trip to Stability City, only for Hurricane LBI (lower body injuries) to come along and ruin our plans. But all is not lost. It sounds like Henderson and/or Trayanum could be back against Maryland, and Ryan Day said he does not believe Wiliams’ injury is of the long-term variety. For what it’s worth, Day’s statements RE: injuries mean absolutely nothing to me. We would have better luck getting useful information from the CIA at this point.
Getting back to the topic at hand: If the sky were to fall, and Ohio State was forced to turn elsewhere for RB carries, who should the team look to? I think there are many intriguing options, from both sides of the ball. And before I get to any of the fun ones, I do have to say that I believe in Chip the Ripper Trayanum (Cleveland rapper, educate yourself) if called upon. I believe, because the Akron Swiss Army knife did more than just pop up in a few games for Arizona State last year. Trayanum rushed for a legitimate 400 yards, and did so on 5.2 YPC. So let’s acknowledge that OSU could do a heck of a lot worse in case of emergency. And you want to talk about a potential goal line option... Chip thicc.
Looking beyond players currently listed at RB, it is easy to find a number of Buckeyes who played the position in high school. One of them was referred to as Captain Buckeye while doing so, making C.J. Hicks an obvious choice for this hypothetical scenario. The five-star freshman linebacker was a do-it-all superstar for Archbishop Alter HS (Dayton, OH) last year, amassing 1,442 all-purpose yards when he was not busy earning recognition as one the country’s top linebackers. 667 of those yards came on the ground, and with track speed and kick return skills to boot, Hicks has just about everything you could ask for in a potential RB. It also does not hurt to be listed at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, in addition to his having those afore mentioned athletic traits. Shoutout to LGHL’s own Jordan Williams for this recommendation, although Hicks was on my short list.
One other player immediately popped into my brain when first coming up with this question, and I find him to be a more realistic option. Said player then made me think of an entire position group, and before I knew it, I found myself wondering if any or all of Ohio State’s wide receivers could take handoffs. For the record, I think they all could, but that is a separate piece, and poppa needs offseason ideas. The pass catcher I settled on was Kaleb Brown.
OSU’s top-rated freshman wideout and seldom-used receiver also ran the ball in HS... Like, all the time. RB was his primary position at St. Rita HS (Chicago), and quite frankly, he might be better suited for it as a Buckeye. If Brown remains at WR, I think he could eventually become a dynamo in the slot, but at 5-foot-10, a traditional role seems far-fetched. Instead, let this man cook in a Curtis Samuel-type role! The current Washington Commander totaled 172 carries while at Ohio State, topping out at 97 (for 771 yards) in 2016. I think Brown could fill a similar role, and add a homerun threat to the backfield equation.
Granted, OSU’s current offense is not what it was in 2016, but Brown is uniquely talented, and I believe it would behoove the Buckeyes to get him involved — regardless of whether or not they are swimming in RB depth. We have seen Henderson and Williams struggle with outside runs and sweeps on occasion, so maybe a freshman WR is the answer. Crazier things have happened. Give it to him on a sweep, involve him in a read situation with Stroud, or if all else fails, dial up a screen. Remember those? I just think Brown provides a lot of flexibility, which has not always been a strong suit of the Buckeyes’ running game.
Everything is on the table, Gene. I do not recall the (Ohio State) RB position being hit so hard by injuries before, but I still have faith! I believe Day and his coaching staff will figure something out, but if not, at least the Buckeyes have a stellar passing game to lean on. Let’s just hope it is not the only thing they have to lean on.