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Bri'onte Dunn Wants to Carry Spring Momentum Into the Fall
By Tony Gerdeman
Bri'onte Dunn found his niche last season, and is looking to expand upon it in 2015.
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS — A 5-star rating as a high schooler is no guarantee of future success, but it does provide an idea of the kind of expectation that a player carries with him when he begins his college career.

Running back Bri'onte Dunn came to Ohio State in 2012 from Canton, Ohio, bringing those 5-star expectations right along with him. He carried the ball 12 times in the first two games that season, but has carried it just 22 times since.

He redshirted as a sophomore in 2013 because Urban Meyer didn't want Dunn to use another year of eligibility while contributing so little on the field. With his eligibility essentially restored in 2014, he still only carried the ball nine times, but he began seeing the field more and more on special teams.

Meyer has long said that before a running back carries the football significantly, they need to contribute on special teams. That finally started happening last season, and the rewards could begin to be handed out this season.

"Bri'onte Dunn has got a little momentum going in his world," said Urban Meyer during the spring, a refrain to be repeated throughout camp.

"It started with special teams contributions last year. He was outstanding by the end of the year. He kind of floated around here for a couple of years and did nothing, I mean nothing. I've been getting pretty good progress reports in the class room. His off the field demeanor is — for those of you who raise children, you see momentum and you see momentum can be lost with a couple of bad decisions or mistakes or you screw up a class. He’s got some momentum right now and it’s showing on the field."

It can take some high school stars a bit longer than others to accept life at the bottom of the ladder, and that was the case with Dunn as well. For years he was a workhorse, but when he arrived at Ohio State life got a whole lot different, especially after those first two games. It has been a process to get back onto the field, but one that Dunn is now fully accepting.

"Coming out of high school I didn’t really play special teams a lot so I wasn’t interested but when I got here I had to learn to love it," Dunn said. "Now I think they’re fun. I feel like I was always good at kickoff, so I told the coaches that and they put me in there and I did really good. Coach Meyer coached punt so that’s a real important special team to get onto."

Dunn came into this spring as the Buckeyes' No. 1 tailback because starter Ezekiel Elliott was held out while recovering from wrist surgery, and backup Curtis Samuel was temporarily moved to H-back. It allowed Dunn to get more work than he has ever had as a Buckeye, and it finally allowed him to put some results on tape.

Dunn knows that this may be his last best chance at securing playing time on offense, and it is something that he and running backs coach Tony Alford have talked about.

"Absolutely, and we had that conversation," Alford said. "‘This is your opportunity to get a bunch of reps. What you do with those is up to you. Every single day is an opportunity for you to improve and get better.’ That’s for everybody, not just Bri. That’s for everybody. But he has taken to that challenge. There’s a lot of improvement still to go. I’m not saying he’s reached a pinnacle by any stretch. Every single rep matters at all times. You’re just getting more because there are less guys in front of you."

Dunn, like every Buckeye, knows that results matter, and making plays is a sure way of seeing the field in the fall. Depth charts are only starting points, it is the production that determines how much somebody plays.

"All I have to do is work hard and keep making plays," Dunn said confidently. "The top people who make plays are going to get the ball in their hands."

Getting half of the carries this spring, Dunn impressed both his coaches and his teammates. He was showing some of those talents that come along with 5-star expectations.

"We got to see a little more of Bri’onte Dunn this spring because Ezekiel is out and Bri’onte has done a really good job," said linebacker Joshua Perry. "He runs the ball with reckless abandon and he’s just a tough, rugged guy, and we really like what he does."

When it comes to running backs, the need for "a pair and a spare" has been around for an awful long time. Buckeye head coaches have searched and searched for that third running back, and now Urban Meyer believes that he has the three that he needs, though he's still looking for a fourth.

"Bri'onte Dunn has kind of solidified that," Meyer said. "I feel good about three of them right now. You've got Mike Weber showing up here pretty soon, too. You still need four. You need four running backs."

Player profiles relevant to story:
25 - Dunn, Bri'onte
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