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The Suburbanite
  • Ohio State's Dunn being pressed for playing time

  • Regardless of what the depth chart inside Ohio State’s locker room says, playing time on game days still carries more weight. GlenOak graduate Bri’onte Dunn was supposed to be the second, or no worse than third, tailback in the backfield when Ohio State opened the season with a humdrum 40-20 win over Buffalo.

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  • Regardless of what the depth chart inside Ohio State’s locker room says, playing time on game days still carries more weight. GlenOak graduate Bri’onte Dunn was supposed to be the second, or no worse than third, tailback in the backfield when Ohio State opened the season with a humdrum 40-20 win over Buffalo.
    But Dunn never got on the field. It left plenty of people scratching their heads why. There’s a chance for him to play Saturday with 28-point underdog San Diego State coming to Ohio Stadium on the heels of losing its home opener to FCS opponent Eastern Illinois.
    Fifth-year senior Jordan Hall got the start, as expected, and he produced. Hall finished with 159 yards on 21 carries, including touchdown runs of 49 and 37 yards. Quarterback Braxton Miller ran it 17 times for 77 yards, but only two of those were designed runs, according to head coach Urban Meyer.
    FRESHMEN PLAY
    True freshmen Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott combined for four carries for 13 yards. Warren Ball got two carries and backup quarterback Kenny Guiton ran it once. The Buckeyes ran it 45 times and threw it 23.
    Dunn never saw the field.
    Getting on the field in the Buckeyes’ crowded and talented backfield isn’t easy. Last season, as a true freshman, Dunn played in the season opener and carried it 25 times, fifth most during the 2012 season.
    “It’s tough, because you don’t have control over the actual events that take place during the course of a game,” OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “If I can sit there and have a crystal ball and say I’m going to have this exact amount of plays, then I can say these guys are going to get that number of plays within that set number. But it doesn’t work that way. I’m a firm believer in a running back gets the hot foot, and gets in the rhythm ... then it does that back an injustice for me to take him out at that time when he’s got a rhythm going.”
    STICK WITH HOT back
    Drayton said Hall got into a rhythm and he stayed with him. It paid off on the two long touchdown runs. He referred to the flow of the game when asked specifically why Dunn didn’t play. It does not seem to be a performance or a discipline issue. Regular practice observers have said Dunn had a solid camp and practiced well last week.
    “He’s a young man who works his butt off every single day,” Drayton said. “Those are the tough decisions that I have to make as a positional coach at times. It doesn’t feel good, when you sit there and watch a kid like Bri’onte work his tail off.
    Page 2 of 2 - “All of our players are held to a standard. If you find your way on special teams, then you can find your way on the offense or defensive side of the ball. Bri’onte needs to continue to compete with his teammates to find a little bit more of a role on special teams so that he gets an opportunity to play on offense. It’s justified.”
    Dunn did not play on special teams Saturday. He did, at times, last season.
    Dunn’s lack of playing time could be because Meyer wanted to see how his new weapons — Wilson and Elliott — would hold up under the pressure of playing in front of 106,000 people. Also, playing freshman tailbacks is a recruiting tool in the future. Meyer always says the best players play.
    Dunn, one of Meyer’s top recruits two years ago, played in the opener as a freshman. Wilson and Elliott played this year. That is something high school seniors notice.
    It won’t get easier for Dunn in the coming weeks, either. Rod Smith returns from a one-game suspension this week. Hall still appears to be the starting tailback. But Smith will make a busy backfield crowded. After the Cal game, projected starting tailback Carlos Hyde returns.
    DUNN DOWN
    Dunn’s spirits were down after the Buffalo game, a couple of his teammates said. Hall said it was noticed in the postgame locker room and teammate helped pick up Dunn’s spirits.
    “It’s tough when you work so hard in the offseason and in camp. He had a good camp, and then you don’t get to play in the first game,” Hall said. “We’re close. We could tell something was wrong after the game, so we just got around him.”
    Drayton said part of his job is to keep Dunn encouraged.
    “This is Ohio State,” Drayton said. “We pride ourselves on loading up our positional groups with the best talent in the country. I think he understands that. ... I think Bri’onte Dunn will be more than fine here at Ohio State.”
    Clearly, though, the first way Dunn can improve his chances of playing is by getting on special teams. That isn’t easy, either. Hall and Wilson were the kick returners. Whether Dunn is a good blocker or not remains to be seen, but tight end Jeff Heuerman returned one short kick 13 yards past the OSU 35.
    With Hall, Smith, Ball, Wilson and Elliott in the meeting room with him, Dunn’s chances this year could be limited.
    “These guys get what they deserve,” Drayton said.
    Reach Todd at 330-580-8340 or
    todd.porter@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: @tporterREP

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