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2015 OSU Spring Positional Recap: Running Back
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — It was a fairly disjointed spring for the Ohio State running backs, as the top two tailbacks on the team didn't even take any reps at the position. Instead, it was redshirt juniors Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball getting all of the snaps.

Given the proven nature of Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel, the staff was more than comfortable going with this unconventional approach. With the lack of available carries for the Buckeyes, this may have been the last chance for Dunn and Ball to earn some playing time. The reviews were good, but they're both going to have to do it all over again once fall camp starts.

Returning Starters: Ezekiel Elliott (6-0 225, Jr)
Ezekiel Elliott didn't participate in any kind of contact throughout spring practice as he recovered from wrist surgery. He still stayed loose and ran, but was never involved in anything that could have put his wrist at risk. Once he is fully recovered, he will finally be able to use a stiff arm for the first time since he was a freshman.

"Here’s what I liked about him, and when I watched the tape it really showed up, is what he does when he doesn’t have the football," explained running backs coach Tony Alford.

"Watch Zeke Elliott play when he doesn’t have the football. That’s the key component for me, when you start watching the guys to see just how competitive is he, how tough is he? Listen, you give me the ball, hell I’m 46 years old and fat, and you give me the ball and I’ll run as fast as I can and hard as I can because I’ve got the ball in my hands. But what am I doing when I don’t have it? Am I running 20 yards down the field throwing a block for a guy that threw to the backside receiver trying to get a block down the field.

"When you watch his intensity of how he performs without the ball in his hands, that to me is probably the most impressive thing about it. That’s some personal pride in what you do, but then you can also continue to coach it. And hopefully if he is the leader that he is, guys are gonna follow it and it kind of becomes contagious."

Others Returning: Curtis Samuel (5-11 200, So); Bri'onte Dunn (6-0 215, rJr); Warren Ball (6-1 225, rJr)
Curtis Samuel spent his spring getting his extremely quick feet wet at H-back, all with the idea that he will be back at tailback with some regularity when fall camp actually starts. What Urban Meyer doesn't want is Samuel standing on the sidelines watching Ezekiel Elliott get carry after carry, while Samuel only gets 10 snaps per game. He's too good for that, and the OSU intention this season is to prove that by getting him on the field as much as possible, be it at tailback or H-back.

"He’s explosive," Alford said. "I mean, watch the guy move. Literally the first drill we did in winter conditioning and I was here and I blew the whistle and he did something, I remember I turned and I looked at Matt Merritt our intern and I said, ‘What the hell was that?’ It was like a flash. And then Matt just started laughing. So we sat down in a meeting and Coach said, ‘So what did you think of Curtis?’ And I was like, ‘Holy smokes.’ That guy has got some explosive, fast-twitch fibers in his body now. He’s a playmaker and he can do a lot of things with the ball in his hand. He’s an exciting toy to have."

With Elliott and Samuel doing their own things, that left Bri'onte Dunn as the No. 1 tailback. Even though it was mostly a passing spring, Dunn was still able to get a good amount of work with the ones. He performed well enough that Urban Meyer expects him to be involved this fall.

"Bri’onte Dunn is a guy that I keep using the term momentum, he’s got it," Meyer said. "I just see some good things happening with him."

"He runs the ball with reckless abandon and he’s just a tough, rugged guy, and we really like what he does," said linebacker Joshua Perry.

Warren Ball then handled the No. 2 tailback reps, which is more than he has ever seen in his collegiate life. For a player who has battled injuries and depth charts for his entire career, this spring was a positive one for him.

"He’s getting a lot of reps," Alford said. "He’s doing a nice job. Just like Bri’onte, he’s getting a lot of reps. He’s a really mature kid in the way he handles his business every single day. He really cares. He cares about his teammates, he cares about this program. So I’ve been pleased with the body of work he’s put in."

Newcomers: Mike Weber (5-10 215, Fr)
Mike Weber has not yet arrived, but Urban Meyer has already talked about him as a guy who is going to push for playing time. He has said that a team needs four running backs, and he believes that Elliott, Samuel and Dunn have solidified the first three spots. The fourth spot is entirely up for grabs between Ball and Dunn.

Depth Chart
Ezekiel Elliott (6-0 225, Jr)
Curtis Samuel (5-11 200, So)
Bri'onte Dunn (6-0 215, rJr)
Warren Ball (6-1 225, rJr)
Mike Weber (5-10 215, Fr)

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