Urban Meyer and 1,000-yard running backs are the albatross of college football.
That’s not a bad thing.
While the two-time national champion is still waiting for his first one -- quarterback Braxton Miller did rush for 1,271 yards last season -- that’s just fine with him.
He’s not looking for Keith Byars or Eddie George to carry the load for Ohio State.
Instead, he wants the all-purpose backs who can do it all.
While Carlos Hyde, who ran for 970 yards last season, had great success in 2012, the back of the future for Meyer is much like the back of his past.
He wants the athlete who isn’t just going to pound it up the middle. He’s looking for the running back who will make defenders miss and look foolish doing so.
“I think what Urban looks for in a running back are the ones that go from running back to slot, get in open space, but still are able to run the ball inside and outside of the tackles,” said DeSoto (Texas) coach Claude Mathis, who coached incoming Ohio State freshman Dontre Wilson last season. “That’s what he liked about Dontre. Dontre isn’t your ordinary running back. Dontre is the type of athlete that can stretch the field as good if not better than any wide receiver you have and then run the ball as good as any running back in the nation.”
Mathis knows a thing or two about running backs.
At Texas State, he owns the career records for rushing yards (4,694), rushing attempts (882), rushing touchdowns (45), all-purpose yards (7,264), total points scored (294) and touchdowns scored (49).
He also holds records for most attempts in a game (46), season (311), most yards rushing in a game (310), most touchdowns in a season (17), most all-purpose yards in a season (205.8), most rushing yards in a season (1,595), most rushing touchdowns in a season (16), and highest rushing average per game for a season (145).
He also knows universities are looking for a little less Earl Campbell and a lot more Reggie Bush.
“Today’s teams are going more to the spread offenses where you look for the Reggie Bush type that can play in any offense you have,” Mathis said. “I’ve seen the stats. When certain schools were recruiting Dontre, they shot me their stats compared to Urban Meyer.
“It’s true Urban Meyer hasn’t had a 1,000-yard back in a long, long time. It hasn’t happened. Does it bother me when it comes to Dontre? It doesn’t because he’ll be in a position where he can rush for 1,000 yards and still get 500 yards receiving.”
Even in this year’s recruiting class there isn’t that banger running back. The Buckeyes currently have Parris Campbell Jr. (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary) in the fold.
While he did rush for 1,286 yards rushing and 28 scores last season, when Fighting Irish coach Dan Boarman got him in space, Campbell exploded.
Campbell sees the same thing happening at Ohio State.
“I think I can impact them a lot,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter to me where I play as long as I’m on the offensive side of the ball.
“I feel like I can get anything done. Coach [Stan] Drayton told me he wants me to play running back when I get there, but they’re really not sure yet. I have great hands, so I can play slot. I can cut and I have vision, so I can play it.”
That’s a trend that isn’t likely to change with Meyer, especially considering his success. The NFL is going to the more wide-open offenses that colleges are running, and the success is there for everyone to see.
It’s not a matter of if the scheme continues at the college level. It’s a matter of for how long.
“It’ll continue to go along this trend for a little bit longer,” Mathis said. “Especially if Chip Kelly goes to the NFL and does what he does. I think colleges will stick with this because they’ve been very successful with it. I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.”