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Established October 31, 1996
Front Page Columns and Features
Last updated: 08/13/2010 3:55 PM
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Football
Berry Expects Big Plays, Touchdowns in 2010
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS — Jaamal Berry knows he probably won’t start a game for Ohio State in 2010, not with the Buckeyes returning their top three backs from a year ago. That hasn’t done anything, however, to taper his expectations for the upcoming season.

Jaamal Berry
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jaamal Berry

“Big plays and touchdowns is what (fans) should expect and that's what I’m going to do,” said a confident Berry at the team’s media day last week.

The Buckeyes already feature a pair of veteran tailbacks in Brandon Saine and Boom Herron, who combined for more than 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground last season. They also have a younger group of backs that includes Berry, along with his classmate Jordan Hall, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry as a freshman last season, and newcomer Carlos Hyde.

“We have a lot of backs this year and we're all good at certain things,” said the 5-foot-11, 200-pound back. 

“Carlos Hyde, he's the bigger back and he runs with power but he's also got some speed and he's quick off his feet. Me and Jordan are more the little backs and we're quick, but we can get the extra yard when we need it. B.Saine and Boom, those guys have proven what they can do on the field. We all push each other and we all help each other.”

That might work in practice, but come Saturday every one of those guys wants to carry the football. There will only be so many carries to share between five guys, particularly with Saine and Herron set to do the bulk of the rushing, and especially if the Buckeyes are going to throw the ball more this season the way Head Coach Jim Tressel said they would.

Having to share the backfield with so many talented backs—not to mention a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback in Terrelle Pryor—might intimidate most young players, but not Berry.

“I don't think having a lot of running backs is a factor to me. It is not in my head,” said the Under Armour High School All-American, who came to Ohio State in 2009 as one of the top-rated running backs in the country.

“We're all good backs and we are all going for the same thing, but it is just going to come down to who is going to make the play when they have the opportunity, and I plan on doing that.”

As one of the most elusive running backs in the country, Berry did that a lot in high school. He came to Ohio State looking to put his ability to use right away, but realized he would face plenty of competition as the Buckeyes signed two other tailbacks in his class, and another in 2010 when they landed Rod Smith, who has yet to report for fall camp because of paperwork issues.

“We were so blessed to have that class where there were a couple people at running back who didn’t need to be the guy, they just wanted to compete,” said assistant coach Dick Tressel, who  coaches the running backs at Ohio State.

“They said I’m sure the Buckeyes are the place I want to be and I’m sure they’ll find a way to use my talents.”

Berry was expected to contribute early in his collegiate career but the Buckeyes weren’t able to utilize his talents last season because of his injuries. A sprained ankle kept him out of the season-opener against Navy and when Berry tried to come back quickly to play against USC the following week, he pulled a hamstring during practice. He was so anxious to get back on the field that he ended up re-aggravating  the hammy four or five more times over the next month before the coaching staff shut him down for the season.

“It was tough and frustrating because of my nagging hamstring injury and how badly I wanted to play,” said Berry, who took a redshirt because of the injuries.

“It wasn't under my power, but now that I’m 100 percent I’m ready to go. Every time I used to burst, I would feel it and I was scared to burst on some plays, so that affected my game last year. But now I’m not afraid to do anything with it.”

In fact, Berry said he feels quicker and faster than he did last fall before the injuries, and coach Dick Tressel would like to exploit that burst out in the open field.

“I think Jaamal, like the rest of them, can do it all. He can be a ball-carrier, he can catch it, he can block for you, he’s tough enough to do all those kind of things,” Tressel said.

“Right now the thing that jumps out to us is if there’s a way to get him the ball in space where he can use that burst has and that elusiveness, obviously that’s real strength.”

With Saine and Herron combining for nearly 300 carries last season, Berry will need to find other ways to get the ball in space.

“I've grown more on catching the ball,” said Berry, who also expects to be used as a kick returner.

“I’ve been having a good camp. I haven't dropped a ball yet.”

Now it’s time to see if he can carry that over into the season, where the Buckeyes could use some extra pass-catchers after losing wideouts Ray Small, Duron Carter and Lamaar Thomas in the off-season.

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