Carlos Hyde rushed for 970 yards and 16 TDs last season and was poised for a big 2013. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
By Martin Rickman
Well, that didn't take long. Two days after reports surfaced naming Ohio State's Carlos Hyde a "person of interest" in an alleged assault against a female at a Columbus bar, the Buckeyes have suspended the senior running back from team activities, the school announced.
The news gets worse for Ohio State: Junior cornerback Bradley Roby was also reportedly arrested in Bloomington, Ind., on Sunday. The Buckeyes have yet to take disciplinary action against Roby, who will reportedly face a Monday afternoon hearing for a battery charge.
Both Hyde and Roby were important cogs in Ohio State's undefeated regular season a year ago, but head coach Urban Meyer tends to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to incidents like Hyde's.
Here is Meyer's comment from the school release:
I have a clear set of core values in place that members of this football program are constantly reminded of and are expected to honor. There are also expectations with regard to behavior. I expect our players to conduct themselves responsibly and appropriately and they will be held accountable for their actions.
Luke Zimmermann, who covers the Buckeyes for SB Nation's Ohio State site Land-Grant Holy Land, feels Meyer's squad is relatively well positioned to replace Hyde if the suspension lasts. "It's a big loss to the Buckeyes, but running back is a deep position," Zimmermann said. "Losing a goal-line stalwart will obviously hurt them in the short term. In terms of a sheer talent perspective, it isn't the end of the world."
While Hyde, a Walter Camp watch list member, rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns last year and was poised to assume the starting role this season, Ohio State is incredibly deep at running back. Rod Smith, Jordan Hall and Bri'onte Dunn have all seen action. Four-star freshmen Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, though green, will add depth and excitement.
The secondary could be a different story. Zimmermann said losing Roby would be a bigger hit than losing Hyde. "Roby, the team's first or second best defender, is even costlier if he's suspended for a long period of time. The investigation is still ongoing, and the team is still looking into the details," Zimmermann said. "His arrest is a misdemeanor Class A and was apparently a bar-room scuffle. Players charged with the same type of misdemeanor in the past have been dismissed sight unseen if they were walk-ons or role players, but some of the star players, the staff will wait for all the details to emerge. If he does plead down or the charges are lessened, the suspension might be smaller."
Cornerback depth is a frequent concern for college and NFL teams alike, but losing a potential All-America like Roby would be a real blow. The Buckeyes return just four defensive starters (including Roby) and can't afford to lose their best defensive back. Roby was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season and is a preseason Jim Thorpe watch list member this year.
The swiftness of the decision to suspend Hyde despite the current lack of a formal charge might provide a glimpse into how long Roby will be out. Arrests under Meyer's watch have been a frequent topic of debate in recent weeks, and it's entirely possible Meyer and the Buckeyes will take this opportunity to make an example of two players in order to show that poor behavior will not be tolerated. (Ohio State did not return a call seeking direct comment.) Meyer has been forced to comment on the Aaron Hernandez murder saga, and the former Florida head coach's disciplinary past has come under the microscope as a result. Greg Bishop of The New York Times counted 31 arrests during Meyer's Florida tenure.
While it may not be fair to hold Florida's disciplinary transgressions against another program, that's the reality with which Meyer and Ohio State now have to contend. With his reputation increasingly under fire, Meyer can't let arrests and dismissals become a trend in Columbus.
The good news for Ohio State? The early-season slate is favorable. The Buckeyes start the year with back-to-back home games against Buffalo and San Diego State before heading west to play Cal. The Big Ten slate commences after a Week 4 home game against Florida A&M. If Roby's potential suspension is four games or fewer, the Scarlet and Grey should be able to weather the storm. If he's out longer, and the injury bug starts biting, Ohio State's title hopes could take a hit.