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RB or WR? Either way, Curtis Samuel could be Ohio State's ultimate weapon

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If Curtis Samuel were a bit less versatile, maybe he'd have a single position he could call his own.

If Ohio State hadn't shuffled him around to find any way it could to get him involved in the offense, perhaps the number of returning starters would have been boosted by one.

And if Samuel were more dangerous as a rushing threat out of the backfield than as a target when lined up at wide receiver, or vice versa, maybe he would have a better idea of exactly how he would get his next touch for the Buckeyes.

But none of those things appear to make any difference to Samuel, which is good news for an Ohio State offense that values multipurpose athleticism and is aiming to unleash Samuel as often as possible as its ultimate secret weapon.

"I think he's our No. 1 playmaker on offense right now," coach Urban Meyer said. "He’s got to stay healthy and he’s got to go [perform], but I just love the skill set.

"I'd have him ranked No. 1 as the playmaker on offense."

That's not an official position on Ohio State's depth chart, of course. But the Buckeyes are in no hurry to pin Samuel, a junior, down in one spot. In two seasons, he has proved he is equally dangerous as a running back, wide receiver or a hybrid of the two in Meyer's vaunted H-back role.

The only certainty about Samuel's role heading into the opener Saturday against Bowling Green is that it figures to be a whole lot bigger this season.

"Curtis is a very skilled athlete, very elite player with the ball in his hands," offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. "We’re just going to try to find as many ways to use him as possible. I mean, he can do great things at wide receiver, he can do great things with the ball in his hand from the running back position. He's a very multiple athlete, so we'll see where it goes.

"We don't have a set number [of touches] in mind. Just enough to help us win games."

The Buckeyes also have yet to determine the best way to get Samuel those touches.

Meyer has suggested in the past that he goes into games with a target in mind for how much he'd like to get his top playmakers involved. Warinner hinted that the target might be as high as 15 touches for Samuel, depending on what opposing defenses present.

That bar often was difficult to reach last season with wideout Braxton Miller, who didn't have a true tailback background after his conversion from quarterback. But a potential backfield-by-committee approach that features Samuel's rushing ability could make it easier for Ohio State to ensure the football gets in his hands early and often. A year ago, he had 22 catches and 17 carries.

"I'm not really worried about it, because I feel like this year I'll have a bunch of opportunities to show what I can do," Samuel said. "If last year I had been worried about when I'm going to get in and having to do this or that, and then I don't perform when I go in, that makes me look bad. When my time comes and Coach gives me that chance, I just have to show them what I've got.

"Whether I'm playing running back or H, I just want to go out and help my team."

Figuring out the best spot could be a work in progress early in the season. And that process might not even have that much to do with Samuel.

His move to wide receiver as a sophomore happened partly because there was a logjam at running back behind Ezekiel Elliott, who for the most part never needed to leave the field and made snaps hard to come by at Samuel's natural position. With some inexperience at tailback now with Mike Weber taking over, Samuel spent half of training camp sliding back over to his old job, just in case he'll be needed there more this fall.

A young group of wide receivers also might have to lean on him, though. But that sort of demand is nothing new for Samuel, who is going to be on the field one way or another.

"Curtis is such a dynamic player," running backs coach Tony Alford said. "Everyone knows that. He's so adept, really does a nice job of pass blocking, obviously we all know he can run the ball and catch the ball. So he's a very dynamic, multidimensional player.

"He helps our football team. He's mature, knows the game, and it's not his first rodeo. He's a guy who can help us in many facets, so why not use that?"

The Buckeyes certainly are planning on it. With Samuel's versatility, though, how they implement it remains subject to change.