By Rusty Miller
COLUMBUS: It feels to Carlos Hyde as if he’s been here before.
His junior year in high school back in Naples, Fla., he rushed for 970 yards — just like he did a year ago as a junior for Ohio State.
“In my senior year I just came out on another level,” he said of topping the mile mark with 1,653 yards rushing. “I kind of feel it’s all happening again.”
To be clear, Hyde won’t reach that figure again. After all, he was suspended for the first three games. But he could very well hit 1,000 yards to become the first running back in Urban Meyer’s 12 years as a head coach to top the 1,000-yard mark.
He’s certainly making up for lost time.
Since breaking in with 41 yards in the final regular-season game with FCS member Florida A&M, the 6-foot, 230-pound battering ram with speed has gone for 85 yards against Wisconsin, 168 yards and three touchdowns at Northwestern, 149 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa and 147 yards and two touchdowns against Penn State.
He’s averaging 118 yards a game, which would be good enough to get him over the 1,000-yard mark if the Buckeyes, as expected, expand their schedule by making it to the Big Ten championship and also playing in a major bowl.
Also, the Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) play teams with porous defenses over the final four games on the schedule (at Purdue on Saturday, then at Illinois, home to Indiana and at No. 21 Michigan).
Despite all the talk about his cutting-edge spread offense, more than anything Meyer loves jamming a football down a defense’s throat. With a big, burly line and a big, burly tailback, that’s been almost a given this season.
“Having Carlos Hyde back there really makes a difference,” offensive guard Andrew Norwell said. “We’re just mauling people.”
Hyde credits his suspension, surprisingly, for helping turn him around. He was linked to an alleged altercation with a female at a Columbus bar last summer. No charges were filed, but Meyer still sat him down for three games.
It was a humbling experience for the senior. But instead of moping around, he threw himself into the scout team, helping to prepare the starters by taking hits from the first-team defense all week.
“Mentally, it was an unbelievable advantage for him,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “Having to play a service role to this football team on the scout team made him hungry, made him extremely hungry. It also made him not take for granted the opportunities that he has in front of him.”
Meyer was down on Hyde. Now he’s up on him.
“Every Thursday is called player-development day and we go through every player on the team,” he said. “Our strength coach and academic people and our training staff rate them for me. [Carlos] has been very high on each one’s list, which usually means a fairly mature guy. I like where he’s at.”
Hyde has a blend of power and speed like the best backs. He’s strong enough to run through an arm tackle at the line and fast enough to slip a linebacker or safety rushing into a hole to stop him.
Asked to describe his running style to someone who had never seen him play, he said, “I’d probably keep it simple and tell them I’m a violent runner that can break away.”
The Buckeyes were tied early in the fourth quarter against Iowa three weeks ago and had the ball at the Hawkeyes’ 19. Hyde took a handoff on a play called “13 dash” and bounced off right tackle. He rumbled to the 7-yard line, where he was hit hard by free safety Tanner Miller, the blow knocking him off balance. He retreated to the 11 before regaining his bearings and then turned up the right sideline. Behind a block by wide receiver Corey Brown, he vaulted from the 3 into the end zone. That was the winning touchdown in a 34-24 win.
After starting the season on the bench, Hyde is now making a case for playing in the NFL.
“I’m doing a good job right now, showing scouts that come to our games that I could be a good back for the next level,” he said.
At least one opposing player has referred to Hyde as a beast.
Meyer was asked about that label.
“What does that mean to me?” he said with a smile. “Kinda cool, I guess.”