COLUMBUS — Tony Alford has had no shortage of talented running backs on the program as he enters his eighth year as running backs coach at Ohio State.
Players such as Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel, JK Dobbins and Trey Sermon each carved out strong legacies in Columbus over the past decade under Alford’s tutelage before heading to the NFL to do the same. With the return of explosive second-year running back TreVeyon Henderson, Alford believes they once again have generational talent at their disposal heading into the 2022 season that will continue this recent trend.
But what Alford can have this season that is different from any of his previous years with the program is elite depth in the position with three backs who have all shown the ability to be the playmaker whose Ohio State needs to complete the vaunted pass attack.
All Henderson did a year ago was finish with the second-most rushing yards by a freshman in program history, including a record-breaking single-game freshman performance. 270 yards against Tulsa, as he validated the massive hype he received out of high school. of the most coveted guards in the class.
Despite all the hype surrounding Henderson’s entry into the preseason, it was Miyan Williams who opened last season as a point guard. And while Henderson quickly parted ways in the following weeks, Williams managed to finish with 507 yards and a high average of 7.1 yards per carry despite a lean diet of carries in 2021.
Now entering his third season and in the best shape of his college career, Williams looks set to meet even greater expectations after a stellar second campaign.
Add second Evan Pryor, a highly regarded rookie in the 2021 class in his own right, into the mix and Ohio State’s running back depth chart will include three running backs this season who would likely start for 90% of teams. from the country. For good measure, Alford will have the services of talented freshman Dallan Hayden in the event of injury concerns.
“At running back, you need depth,” Alford said after practice on Friday. “You have to have depth. You’ve seen matches where a few guys in a match go down, so you need to have some depth.
It remains to be seen how the hauling load is ultimately split, though it’s beyond a safe guess Henderson will once again lead the team – and possibly the country – in production from the porter’s station. of balloon. However, Alford don’t care which backs will be the heaviest this season. Instead, he hopes the next few weeks of camp will make those decisions even more difficult because of what it will mean for the team.
“I don’t think it’s about trying to get a separation,” Alford said Friday. “I just want the guys to keep improving. And if you show you can play winning ball, then we’ll find ways to get you on the pitch and help this football team win. To say there has to be this major separation, quite frankly, I hope there’s not a lot of separation because that means we have some really good guys.
With pre-season camp only three days away and the players not yet ready, Alford said it was too early to assess where his players currently stand in the pecking order when it comes to the season opener against Notre Dame. Rather, he just wants to promote a sense of professionalism and responsibility in his room to ensure his guys continue to improve as the season approaches.
“I just ask them to make sure they’re pros,” he said. “They’re veterans, or at least two of them are veterans, and the top three guys are in the program now. So I ask them to be pros in how they approach their business, how they get to meetings, walkthroughs, and practice. Be pros and keep improving, but I love the room I got.
Ohio State running back Miyan Williams crossed the goal line in last year’s game against Michigan State at Ohio Stadium.
Contact Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.