Wanted: Fullback for OSU backfield
The Bucks are trying to find a lead blocker for Heisman candidate Chris Wells.
Gatehouse News Service
COLUMBUS — Even with the quarterback of the future on his way, Ohio State is looking for a dying breed. The Buckeyes are so in need of a fullback that linebackers are trading delivering the pounding to absorbing it.
No matter how good quarterback Terrelle Pryor is, he will not trump tailback Beanie Wells in 2008. Wells, who is getting Heisman Trophy mentions, is the bread and butter of the Buckeye offense.
The team needs a lead blocker to open the way for Wells. Dionte Johnson and two others who rotated at the position last season are gone.
It won’t be easy.
“I think you’re almost to a point where you have to project guys from certain positions,” Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. “I think the NFL is having the same issue. If I were a guy who’s looking for a niche that is of that body type and loves running at 10-yard collisions, there are some job opportunities out there, because there aren’t many of them.”
Fullbacks are, in many ways, glorified offensive linemen. Just to keep their interest, a fullback may get a carry or two every season on short-yardage situations.
Ryan Lukens is moving to fullback to avoid a logjam at linebacker. True freshman Andrew Sweat, another converted linebacker, is going to get a look. Even Austin Spitler, who is among OSU’s top six or seven linebackers, will spend practice time back there.
“We like doing a lot of things with Beanie and Brandon [Saine] in the game together. I would say that probably makes it less urgent,” Tressel said. “But your traditional stuff with a lead back — I thought those guys last year ... gave us just enough at that position.”
With Pryor’s impending arrival in the summer, Tressel and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman can relax some. But Pryor isn’t likely to run the show most of the fall. That will go to incumbent QB Todd Boeckman.
Boeckman gives the Buckeyes a play-action passing attack, especially with Wells in the backfield. Tressel didn’t sound like a guy ready to abandon Wells.
“Jim Bollman did an interesting study of the last three years of our offense,” Tressel said. “In ’05, we did more spread stuff than any year, because that was the first year Troy [Smith] spent basically the whole year at quarterback. Our ’05 numbers — rushing, passing and scoring — were a little bit better than the last two years.”
Add that with Pryor, and you’d think the spread is a shoo-in this fall down on the Olentangy.
“In ’07 we were different because of the style of players we had,” Tressel said. “If I were a defensive coach, I’d be happy every time I see Beanie in a split back and not running down hill at me. Every time he’s not in the I-formation, it makes defensive coaches happy, and I don’t want to make defensive coaches happy.”