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If Carlos Hyde looks different to you this season, you're not alone. The Ohio State running back spent the offseason shedding some unwanted weight, and even his quarterback has taken notice.
"He's slimmed down a little bit. Got all of the jelly fat off of him," Braxton Miller said of his backfield mate. "He's more muscle tone this year."
The 6-foot running back has lost five pounds since the end of the 2011 season and currently weighs 235 pounds entering the fall camp of his junior season. Plenty of eyes will be on Hyde in the next three weeks, most notably those belonging to first-year Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who hasn't been shy about placing expectations on the Naples, Fla. native.
"This is the defining moment of Carlos Hyde's career," Meyer said. "And it's either yes or no. There can't be any more grey area. He's had too much grey in his career. And he's got talent."
Hyde's entire sophomore season could be defined as a grey area. He gained 223 yards in the Buckeyes' first three games of 2011, but saw his playing time significantly reduced after Jordan Hall and Dan "Boom" Herron returned from suspensions.
"Last year was like a roller coaster. It was just sometimes I'm out there, like you said I'd have good games, and next game I wouldn't get in at all," Hyde said. "A couple older guys just told me just be patient, your time's going to come, so I just sat back, and I was just patient."
Perhaps the game that caused the most head scratching of Hyde's sophomore season came when the Buckeyes faced Illinois in their seventh game of the year. After rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns a week prior against Nebraska, Hyde only received three carries against the Illini, and sent out a tweet after the game implying that he would look to transfer.
Despite his obvious frustrations, Hyde has denied that he was ever serious about leaving the Ohio State program.
"I never thought about leaving. I was just down on it 'cause I was just coming off of having a good game against Nebraska, so I thought I'd be fine, I thought I'd be in the rotation way more than what I was," Hyde said. "It just taught me be patient, don't be down on yourself, just sit back and wait, because soon enough, your time will come."
Hyde appeared to make the most of a second chance two weeks later, when he rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown against Indiana, but he never received more than five carries in a single game for the remainder of the season.
Despite his sporadic playing time, Hyde stuck with the Ohio State program upon the arrival of Meyer, and enters fall camp listed as the Buckeyes' No. 2 running back behind the currently injured Hall. Even when Hall is healthy, there's a good chance that that Hyde would be used as the Buckeyes' primary running back in Meyer's spread offense with Hall lining up in the 'pivot' running back-wide receiver hybrid position.
Considering what he went through a season ago, Hyde will just be happy to find the field any way he can.
"I'm not trying to be cocky, but I feel like I can play any position you put me in," Hyde said. "If I can learn it, I think I can execute at that position."
Not known for making star running backs out of his spread offense, Meyer said he's eager to coach a power runner like Hyde.
"It's been a while since I've had one. The body type is Carlos Hyde. Talent is Carlos Hyde," Meyer said. "He has to stay healthy and it's time to go get it. It's not the previous coaching staff's fault, it's not the offensive line's fault, it's not the dog ate his homework. It's time to go, go. It's time."
If this past offseason and his new physique are any indication, Hyde appears to be ready to answer Meyer's challenge.
"I feel like my time is now," Hyde said. "This year I feel like I just need to get out there and play my game. I can't wait to get out there, first game, I'm excited, I just can't wait."
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