OSU running backs coach Tony Alford and running backs Master Teague and Trey Sermon met with reporters to day to update the running backs position.
Tony Alford: Alford remarked that running the football is just one of the skills needed to be a running back at Ohio State. They are looking for three-down running backs, and that means that in addition to running the ball you have to be able contribute in the passing game as well, both as a receiver out of the backfield and also as a blocker protecting the quarterback “If you can’t pass protect then you can’t play on third down, then you are very limited,” said Alford. “Pass protection is very important. We want every-down backs.
When asked about transfer Oklahoma running back transfer Trey Sermon Alford noted that one of the things they are working on with him is running lower and behind his pads. Sermon is a bit taller that recent OSU running backs like Carlos Hyde, Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins, all of whom were a bit shorter and bulkier that Sermon. Sermon is a playmaker who is a willing and capable blocker in pass situations and is good at running routes out of the backfield and catching the football. His description of Sermon sounded very much like that three-down back they are looking for. Alford also noted that Sermon did a phenomenal job of picking up the OSU playbook and offense, noting that he has not only shown the ability to retain a tremendous amount of information but also has shown the ability to transfer that information into play on the field.
Sermon and Master Teague are players who were expected to garner a big piece of the playing time at running back, but Alford said there were other names to remember to, one of which is walk-on Xavier Johnson. Johnson has not only impressed with this on-field performance but has also become one of the vocal leaders in the running back room. Alford reported that Johnson has had an outstanding month and is now up to 215 pounds. He called Johnson an extremely mature player. Another player that has had very good growth in maturity this year is Steele Chambers. Alford noted that Chambers now is much more familiar with the playbook and overall offense and has improved so much that he would be very comfortable putting Chambers in the game.
Alford was asked what the qualities are that have earmarked the culture of excellence in the OSU running back room in recent years. He responded that the way the backs have taken care of their bodies stands out to him, but also that they have all been students of the game who have put in the work to get better every day. The common denominator is that they all are constantly looking for ways to improve, whether it be in the weight room, on the practice field or in film study.
When asked about injured running back Marcus Crowley Alford responded that Crowley has made significant progress in the recovery process and can do more every day, but is not yet 100 percent. He would not guess as to how much more time Crowley would need in order to be available.
Alford also spoke well of freshman Miyan Williams. He called Williams “a tough guy who will put his face on you.” Williams has come a long way in the last week and a half as he has become more familiar with the playbook and more comfortable with the speed of college football. “Miyan wants to be a good player. I’m glad to have him here,” said Alford.
Alford is very happy with the depth at running back and has no problem with the idea of platooning backs.
Teague is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury but is getting close to being fully recovered. He said that he is far along enough in the recovery process that he could have played in the season opener is the season had begun in September as it had originally been scheduled.
Teague fully expects to be a better back this year than he was last year. The year of experience has made him more comfortable in the college game and he now has more confidence to go out and do what he can do.
Sermon said he chose Ohio State as his transfer target because he fell in love with the coaching staff. Coming out of high school he had been recruited by Tony Alford and the two had developed a rapport in that process. He is also extremely impressed with Ryan Day. It also didn’t hurt that the Buckeyes had so many great players on the roster, many of whom he had become familiar with in the recruiting process.
Sermon was very productive at Oklahoma in his first two years, rushing for almost 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2018, but his touches and production fell off by over 60 per cent last season. Sermon is looking forward to being a more productive contributor this season as a Buckeye.