Football Recruiting

How Does Tony Alford Sell Ohio State to Running Backs?

Tony Alford, J.K. Dobbins Ohio State Football Buckeyes

If the day comes when Urban Meyer calls you up on the phone and offers you a job as an assistant coach, before you accept it, you better understand that you are going to have to recruit at an elite level.

Not a single day of it will be easy. Nothing you have ever done will have the same demands as this job, and that’s just the recruiting aspect.

Now, you’ll have a top-notch product to sell, but it’s not going to sell itself.

Or is it?

When talking this spring about the recruiting process, Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford was asked about his recruiting pitch to prospective running backs.

His answer?

“Watch. I’m not trying to be facetious. Watch,” he said. “We’ve had really good success prior to me being here, too, with Carlos Hyde and then Zeke [Elliott] and then Mike [Weber] and then J.K. [Dobbins]. The list goes on and on.”

Carlos Hyde paid his dues at Ohio State. He carried the ball a little bit as a freshman, then quite a bit as a sophomore. As a junior, he nearly hit a thousand yards. His senior season he was the Big Ten’s best running back, averaging 151.9 yards rushing in conference games. Hyde is now in the NFL.

Behind Hyde at Ohio State in 2013 were Rod Smith and Ezekiel Elliott. Both are now enjoying the NFL as well. Elliott’s sophomore season in 2014 saw him rush for 1,878 yards, including 476 yards in the Buckeyes’ two playoff games that year. Elliott followed that up with an 1,821-yard encore before leaving for the NFL.

Mike Weber then stepped in as a redshirt freshman in 2016, leading the Buckeyes with 1,096 yards rushing. More was expected last season, but a hamstring issue nixed those hopes. Rather than let it disrupt the running game, Ohio State simply turned to their next most talented running back in true freshman J.K. Dobbins.

All Dobbins did was set an Ohio State freshman rushing record with 1,403 yards on the ground.

When Alford has looked at his position room over the years, he always has players that he can rely on. The maturity in his room has been consistent. And it is that maturity that also factors into Ohio State’s recruiting success when it comes to needing one player to replace another.

“The best recruiters are our players,” Alford said. “They’re the best ones we’ve got. We get a young man to come on campus and sit with our players and they start talking to one another, the recruit thinks, ‘Yeah, I think this would be good for me, too. I like the guys in the room and who I’m going to be with and rubbing elbows with and hanging out with and who I can learn from.’”

What Alford has built at Ohio State is a teaching unit that is also hungry to learn. Everyone wants the best for the group and the veterans make sure the young players aren’t being left behind.

So when you do accept that assistant coaching job from Urban Meyer, you might eventually get to the point when the players do the recruiting, and if you do get there, consider it a blessing because it’s not like this everywhere.

“The best ambassadors we have are our players, and the best ambassadors I have in our position group are our players,” Alford reiterated. “I’ve been fortunate to work with some really high-quality young men as people and as players. I’ve been blessed that way. Hopefully, it’ll continue.”