Players to watch in spring: No. 3

February, 12, 2014 Feb 12 9:00 AM ET COLUMBUS, Ohio — The offseason conditioning program is in full swing. Signing day has come and gone. Blink and spring practice will already be here. + EnlargeTrevor Ruszkowksi/USA TODAY SportsFormer ESPN 300 prospect Ezekiel Elliott could be in line to start at tailback for the Buckeyes in 2014.Ohio State is less than a month away from getting back on the field and starting preparations for the 2014 season, and those days probably can’t go by fast enough for a program coming off consecutive losses after a 24-game winning streak. To help pass the time, we’re counting down the top five players who are facing critical springs, either because it’s a turning point in their careers or because the Buckeyes are counting heavily on them to fill vacant jobs as they try to get back in contention for a national title again in the fall. The series rolls along today with another potential weapon on offense. No. 3: Ezekiel Elliott, running back

By the numbers: There wasn’t an abundance of opportunity for the reserves in the Ohio State backfield, but Elliott made the most of the chances he did get as a true freshman, rushing 30 times for 262 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

What’s at stake: The starter and workhorse at running back is gone, and somebody is going to have to fill the large void Carlos Hyde leaves behind as he heads to the next level. The Buckeyes have plenty of options on hand, but given the relatively even playing field heading into spring, Elliott is staring at a golden opportunity to claim a starting job and keep the momentum rolling for one of the nation’s most potent rushing attacks. Bri’onte Dunn, Rod Smith, Warren Ball and Dontre Wilson are all factors for playing time at tailback as well, but Elliott’s 8.7 yards per carry off the bench during his first season with the program raised the already high expectations for his career and likely will give him the inside track.

Continue reading this article at ESPN: Players to watch in spring: No. 3

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