A Quiet “Boom” Unnoticed in Columbus

By: T.J. Zuppe

With so much talk about the quarterback position in college football and most notably surrounding Terrelle Pryor, when it comes to the Ohio State Buckeyes, there has been a real unsung hero in Columbus this season.

No he is not a Heisman contender or a former number top recruit in the nation. He is not a former Mr. Ohio Award winner. He is not under investigation by the FBI over acceptance of money as a college athlete nor is he the most talented player on his team.

But he does have a pretty cool nickname.

Buckeyes’ running back Daniel “Boom” Herron entered the 2010 season viewed mostly as an underachiever. The 21-year old junior had given Ohio State flashes of brilliance in two years but lacked the consistency coach Jim Tressel was looking for.

Ohio State Running Back Daniel Herron

He was also forced to share a workload with running back Brandon Saine, who looked as if he had grabbed firm hold of the position at the close of 2009 and into the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks last January.

But something has grown inside the five-foot-10, 200-pounder this season and it has his Buckeye teammates and fans smiling from ear to ear. All of the sudden, not only is “Boom” relevant but he is making a huge impact on this football team.

Herron has rather quietly put together one of the better campaigns we have seen from a Buckeyes’ running back in recent years.

He already has topped his yardage marks of last season and currently sits at 824 yards, on 150 carries heading into Saturday’s game in Iowa against the Hawkeyes.

His 5.5 yards-per-carry average is a full yard and a half better than his sophomore season and only needs three more carries to reach his ground touches of one year ago.

Not to mention his touchdown mark, which has nearly doubled from seven to 13. This also includes something coach Tressel is very high on.

Herron has not fumbled once in his career at Ohio State.

He has given the team an added spark in key situations, none bigger than Saturday’s game in Columbus, against Penn State. After being down 14-3 at the half to the Nittany Lions, Herron carried the Buckeyes to victory on offense, rushing 21 times on his way to 190 yards on the ground, a career-high.

He also converted a key third down play, with the Buckeyes deep in their own territory when Pryor tossed him the ball and Herron did the rest, picking up the first down that proved to be the biggest play on the drive in the second half.

Going even further back, he has rushed for at least 90 yards in four of the last six games, including providing the only attack against Wisconsin in defeat, rushing for 91 yards and two scores, shouldering the load and almost closing the gap.

He may not be an elite back but he certainly is proving himself with every gutsy performance. And one of the biggest reasons for his dominance over the last couple of weeks lies in the consistent touches he is getting.

With the consistent work load he has been given, he continues to reward the coaching staff by making big plays. He is earning more and more playing time with every single snap.

While Pryor, who was expected to be in the conversation for Heisman consideration has faltered in the clutch, Herron has bailed out his signal caller and made his job abundantly easier.

In fact, starting with his career-high against Penn State, several games can be traced back to Herron’s performance, in addition to better defensive play as the reason why Ohio State was successful and able to pull out victories.

Yet quietly, it seems his performance is being overlooked in favor of the inflated stats of Pryor.

If it is stats you are concerned with, then let us look closer at the numbers.

Herron is currently sixth in the Big Ten conference in rushing, fifth amongst non-quarterbacks. Outside of kickers, he is third in conference in pure scoring.

But more than that,  Herron is changing games. He has battled through sub-par offensive line play, at least for the standards of The Ohio State University. He is forcing the coaching staff to commit back to running the football.

Through that ground attack, the passing game has become dangerous again. Wide receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher continue to flourish in the intermediate to deep range. He has taken some of the focus off of Pyror.

And most importantly, when his team has needed him most, he has been willing to throw them on his back and power them to the best possible chance at succeeding. He has not buckled under the pressure like some of his on-team counterparts.

Meanwhile, he just quietly goes about his business without anyone seeming to notice, as the Buckeyes gear up for Iowa, Michigan and possible BCS bowl game.

But in reality, Herron has been just as big of a reason the Buckeyes are where they are. And if the team has any sense about them, it will continue to be more of the same through the rest of the season for Boom and the Buckeyes.

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