November 2, 2010

Herron excelling in new role

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State running backs coach Dick Tressel thought he had an idea of what the headlines would look like after the Buckeyes 49-10 win over Purdue two weeks ago.

In the Buckeyes' win over the Boilermakers - just one week removed from the team's loss at Wisconsin - junior running back Dan Herron carried the ball on all five of Ohio State's plays on the opening drive before running it in for a touchdown.

"I was for sure when I got up Sunday morning, the headline would be something about 'Boom,'" Tressel said. "He carried the ball five times in a row for 60 yards a touchdown. I don't know if Woody even did that. It's been a long time since one guy just packed the leather down the field like that."

Since senior running back Brandon Saine has seen his role changed from a typical running back to multi-purpose back used in a receiver's role, Herron's job in the Buckeyes' backfield has expanded to becoming the team's featured back.

And with the switch, Herron's vast increase in carries has helped an otherwise stagnant Buckeye running game turn into one of Ohio State's offensive strength.

The Buckeyes have perhaps one of the deepest backfields in the Big Ten Conference, but Ohio State's coaching staff has apparently turned to Boom to carry the load.

"I don't want to say that my role has changed, but I just want to do the most I can when I have the ball in my hands," Herron said. "We have a lot of talented backs. I am just happy I can come in and carry the ball hard every time I have the opportunity."

Herron's running ability has vastly improved from a year ago, as the junior has added the ability to cut back in the backfield while sporting an improved vision to bounce runs outside for bigger gains.

Of course, Herron continues to be one of the hardest runners on the team - hence the nickname 'Boom' - and his running style has turned into success for not only the Buckeyes, but himself individually.

Though Herron only carried the ball in the first half of Saturday's 52-10 win over Minnesota, the junior got his first 100-yard rushing game of his career against the Gophers.

Herron currently has carried the ball 129 times for 634 yards (4.91 yards per carry) and has scored 12 touchdowns on the season, tied for second in the conference with Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Herron is behind on Wisconsin running back John Clay, who has 13 rushing touchdowns this season.

This season Herron has already rushed for more touchdowns than anyone in the conference aside from Clay did all of last season and is currently on pace to score more than 18 in his junior season.

"We always talk about an impact player being someone that can just do their job, but they can raise everyone else up," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "And we don't even know for what reason. He just has a presence. We always talk about good leaders have what we call a sense of impending greatness. If you stick with me, something great is going to happen. Boom has that. Boom has that presence."

Whether it is out of the I-Formation or even the "Boom Cat" - Ohio State's version of the Wildcat formation - the Buckeyes have turned to Herron to be the primary rusher.

There was some doubt Herron could carry this role, not only because of Ohio State's stacked backfield but also because he has suffered injury in the past. Herron, who has been limited to less than 20 carries per game most of the season, missed just under four games last year with injury.

But with Saine being utilized in the offense as someone who creates threats as a receiver, Herron's pace toward a record-setting year could continue to stay on track.

"He just has that ability to lift up everyone. Now, you can't do that if you're not doing your job well though, and he happens to be doing his job," Jim Tressel said. "You can be an electric guy and really someone that people want to follow, but they'll stop following you if you don't produce, and Boom Herron produces."

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