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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Before the 2012 season even started, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer defined it as a "make or break" one for running back Carlos Hyde.
And after the Buckeyes' first four games, it appeared that the direction of the pivotal year for Hyde was skewing towards the former.
Appearing in just two of Ohio State's first four outings, the junior running back amassed just 109 yards and two touchdowns, while fellow running back Jordan Hall sat out the games with a foot injury. Perhaps more concerning for Hyde was that he missed the Buckeyes' wins over California and UAB with a sprained MCL.
The Naples, Fla. native returned in time for the Buckeyes' Big Ten opener with Michigan State, only gained a total of 49 yards, but that didn't stop him from showing Meyer that this season could be a "make" for him. With the Buckeyes clinging to a one-point lead with four minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the game, Hyde rushed for 18 of his most important yards of the season- helping quarterback Braxton Miller run the clock out to give Meyer the first Big Ten win of his coaching career.
After the game, Meyer admitted that Hyde showed him something on that final drive that he had not seen from him since he arrived in Columbus.
"If I knew we'd do that, we would have done that earlier in the game too," Meyer said. "I mean, that was a hell of an effort."
As it turned out, that final drive was just a sign of things to come for the 6-foot-1, 235-pound runner. In Ohio State's win over Nebraska, Hyde turned 28 carries into 140 yards and four touchdowns. For his efforts, Hyde was named the team's offensive player of the week, but he deflected the praise to those who were making the blocks for him.
"I have to give all the credit to the offensive line," Hyde said. "If they didn't do their job, we wouldn't have been able to run for 300-plus yards. They were great tonight."
For a brief moment, Hyde's explosion against the Huskers appeared to be a flash in the pan. In the first quarter of the Buckeyes' subsequent game against Indiana, OSU's No. 1 back only managed to gain 15 yards on four carries in another lackadaisical start for the Buckeyes' offense.
Meyer noticed Hyde stumbling out of the gates, but was more impressed by how he responded, accumulating 183 yards of total offense and two touchdowns in an effort that the OSU coach said was representative of the maturity that the running back has gained in the last year.
"Really disappointed in the way he started," Meyer said. "But he got real strong. By the end of the game, he was a man."
Hyde's position coach, OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton said that he's also noticed growth in Hyde as both a person and a player, after a 2011 season that saw him publicly complain about his lack of playing time.
"I think that's what you're seeing right now, is his production on the field and the reason's for that is because he's become a lot more disciplined in his life," Drayton said. "He was under the impression that he got a raw deal last year. He was somewhat selfish in that respect. Just like any athlete, you get this high expression of yourself. And at the same time, you want that individual to have that confidence in his skill level. It's a double-edged sword, and I think he's falling on the right side of that sword right now."
Whether or not Hyde can remain on the positive side of things remains to be seen, but the the running back is aware of what his presence means to the Buckeyes' offense, which has been made evident in the past two weeks, where OSU has ran for an average of 362 rushing yards per game.
"I feel like we can run the ball whenever, for real," Hyde said. "There's no stopping the offense once we get that spark."