August 12, 2010

Berry past injuries, ready to contribute

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Jaamal Berry grabbed a handoff Tuesday an Ohio State fall camp practice, quickly shifted his weight to make a defender miss before cutting inside to break off a nice run.

His shiftiness has been talked about since he signed with the Buckeyes out of high school over a year ago, but it has yet to be seen in a regular season game.

It is that unrevealed explosiveness that Berry hopes to put on display this season.

"I am feeling great right now," Berry said. "I cant wait to get going and show everyone what I can do this year."

With the type of talent coming out of Palmetto High School (Miami, Fla.) as the No. 5 ranked running back by in the 2009 recruiting class, the coaching staff never really thought Berry would be a redshirt candidate in his freshman season.

But recurring injuries continued to delay Berry's Buckeye debut, sustaining his first serious hamstring pull just two days before Ohio State's home bout against incoming power USC. Minor injuries from fall camp and into the beginning of the season kept him out of Ohio State's season-opener against Navy.

In addition to a sprained ankle, Berry said he pulled the hamstring four or five more times in the next month before the coaching staff finally pulled him back and made getting fully healthy the priority. This, of course, turned into an unexpected redshirt year.

"It was hard to stay focused with the nagging injuries but I just had to sit down and basically deal with it," Berry said. "I am here to play football and if I would have let that get in the way of my concentration that would have just messed everything up."

With Berry out last season, another freshman running back in Jordan Hall became the team's No. 3 tailback behind co-starters Dan Herron and Brandon Saine.

But now back healthy since fully participating in spring football, the 5-foot-10 running back hopes to put those nagging injuries behind him and just play football in Ohio State's already crowded backfield.

"I am 100 percent now, had a strong off-season workouts, got stronger, and I tried to focus on those little muscles," Berry said.

Berry has been bunking with Saine for fall camp and the veteran running back has provided him with advice not only this season, but back into last year when he was dealing with his injuries.

Saine, who has had a history of injuries himself, never noticed a time where Berry was down on himself.

"(He had) a lot of ups and downs," Saine noted. "I think (Berry) was always smiling though, always had his head up. I think he is excited for this year, but last year might have thought him that you need to take every chance you can get."

With Ohio State having perhaps the deepest backfield in head coach Jim Tressel's time with the Buckeyes, getting on the field may not easy, regardless of perfect health.

Hall - who is trying to fend off Berry for the No. 3 running back spot - had a productive freshman year and proved that despite his small stature he has the vision and elusiveness to make consistent plays for the Buckeyes.

Though the backfield may be stacked for Ohio State, Berry is confident in his abilities when healthy. Tressel even mentioned him as a viable option in the return game this year, which Berry is excited about because it gets him on the field.

"I don't think having a lot of running backs is a factor to me. It is not in my head," Berry said. "We're all good backs and we are all going for the same thing, but it is just going to come down to who is going to make the play when they have the opportunity, and I plan on doing that."

Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for He can be reached at [email protected].

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