By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – Ohio State freshman running back Curtis Samuel would, if asked, run through a wall, offensive coordinator Tom Herman says.
OSU would settle for running through the line, around a few linebackers and maybe past some defensive backs.
And with every passing day it appears more and more likely the 5-foot, 11-inch, 190-pound first-year player will be one of the players who fills the massive hole left in the Buckeyes’ backfield when Carlos Hyde moved on to the NFL.
“He’d run through that brick wall over there right now for you if you told him to,” Herman said, as he sat at a table in the Woody Hayes Center.
“He is a rare combination of explosiveness, quickness, true long-range speed and toughness. A lot of people don’t realize he’s a tough, rugged dude who is not going to shy away from contact.”
Talk is cheap in the pre-season. But Herman practically guaranteed Samuel will be on the field when the games count.
“If he stays healthy, no doubt,” he said when asked if Samuel was going to play.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton said, “He definitely has the ability and toughness to do everything we need. He’s running through the tackles. You can’t play that position in this offense and not run between the tackles. He’s the smallest one but the fastest. He plays bigger than his size.”
This enthusiasm about Samuel starts at the top. During an appearance on ESPN, coach Urban Meyer said, “He (Samuel) came in during the spring and really stole my heart. He does everything right. Gifted athlete. Kind of a freak athlete.
Last Sunday at Ohio State’s media day, Meyer said, “I’ve got to be careful, but I love that kid. Man, oh man, does he go hard. He is talented and he will play this year.”
Samuel, recruited out of Brooklyn Erasmus Hall High School, downplayed Meyer’s words but seems confident in his ability to play right away.
“When Coach was on ESPN, I wasn’t watching. My family told me Coach was talking about me. It’s great to hear the head coach talking good about you but I don’t pay too much attention,” he said. “I just keep working on my craft, keep working on my technique and performing at a high level.
Ezekiel Elliott, who is expected to be the No. 1 running back, calls Samuel “probably the most explosive of all the backs.”
Samuel said, “I am a very talented guy and I do make big plays. I feel like I am a big-time player because I make big-time plays. But we have a lot of talent on this team, a lot of players who can make plays also.
“When I first got here it was definitely like, ‘Welcome to college,’ just being around this type of environment was different. It definitely is a big adjustment, just learning the playbook, learning different types of techniques. That was a big adjustment for me. Learning the playbook and understanding the game better.”
It’s an adjustment he appears to have made very quickly.