Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer isn’t the kind to let a player back into his lineup without earning it.
Senior running back Carlos Hyde, who returns Saturday from a three-game suspension after an incident at a Columbus bar in July, is no exception.
Despite coming into the season as the projected No. 1 running back for OSU, Hyde has had to work his way back up the ladder and win back his starting position.
“He has done a really good job,” Meyer said to the media Monday. “He’s running the scout team the entire time, has had a very good attitude and taken care of his business in the classroom. We are anxious to get Carlos back.”
Although he has been working hard and “handled his business the right way,” Hyde will not instantly come back as the starter Saturday against Florida A&M (1-2), Meyer said after practice Wednesday.
“That’s not fair to the other guys. But he’ll play,” Meyer said. “He’s done everything and above that I and (running backs coach Stan Drayton) have asked him to do.”
One of those “other guys” is redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall, who has started for OSU during Hyde’s suspension. Hall leads OSU with 402 yards and six touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 6.28 yards per carry.
Hall was out for a majority of the 2012 season because of injuries, but Drayton said after the OSU game against Buffalo Aug. 31 that being on the sideline helped him grow.
“Well, he’s made an unbelievable change as a person. He’s grown tremendously,” Drayton said. “All the adversities that he had to face with the injuries and some of the things that he quite honestly put on himself with the consequences that he had to face, he’s really grown and embraced all those things and now it’s transferring into his football play.”
Hall’s play so far this season has made the offense much better this year than it was last year, Meyer said after the game against California last weekend.
“He’s played great. Jordan Hall and that offensive line, they’re doing the job that I can’t even explain how good they’re doing,” Meyer said. “They’re helping me out so much with the running game, and they’re opening up running lanes for me and play action is opening up deep.”
But the problem OSU faces Saturday against Florida A&M is how to use both Hall and Hyde with only so many touches to go around.
Meyer said he has spent a lot of time thinking about how the running backs will split time on the field.
“It’s a good issue to have, because Carlos did a lot for us a year ago, a lot. He’s a very talented running back and that was hard,” Meyer said. “(The suspension) was hard on everybody. It was hard on Carlos most of all, but it was hard on all of us, too, because Carlos did a lot of good things, and that whole situation, I don’t know. I’ll answer that later in the week. But Jordan Hall certainly has earned the right to touch the ball in a big way, so I’m not sure yet.”
Hall said the return of Hyde will be a boost for the offense because there will be another player who can challenge opposing defenses.
“Carlos can run the ball,” Hall said. “So it’s hard for a defense to prepare for two different type of backs and a quarterback that can run and plus receivers on the edge, so I mean, I’m an unselfish player, I’m just trying to win at the end of the day.”
Hall rushed for a career-high 168 yards against California, but after the game, Meyer said it will be tough spreading the ball around evenly on offense in weeks to come.
“It’s a lot of weapons that you have to worry about and with getting Carlos back, that’s just adding to the mixture and I just can’t wait to see him go this week,” Meyer said.
Hall agreed it will be difficult to make everyone happy with so many play makers on offense.
“There’s only one football. (We’ve) got to be unselfish to win,” Hall said. “We’re just trying to win at the end of the year.”
The Buckeye running backs will get their chance at Ohio Stadium Saturday when OSU is set to take on Florida A&M at noon.