Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford has a lot of options.
Following a season in which there was talent but not numbers at the running back position Alford enters this spring with talent and numbers. Well, actually, it’s one number. It’s six.
OSU enters spring camp with six scholarship running backs on the roster and all of them can play. Alford’s job now is to determine which of the six are the best fit for what the Buckeye offense wants to be this year.
The six candidate include upper classmen Master Teague (5-11, 226), Steele Chambers (6-1, 220), and Marcus Crowley (6-1, 213), sophomore Miyan Williams (5-8, 227) and incoming freshmen TreVeyon Henderson (5-10, 210) and Evan Pryor (5-10, 197).
Teague has starting experience and is considered the incumbent at this time. He has battled injuries in his career including a serious achilles tendon injury last spring. A blend of power and speed, Teague has shown flashes of being a homerun hitter as well as a tough, one-cut runner. Teague is considered a weight-room super achiever and does what he has to do to get better everey day.
“It’s a little weird being the old guy in the room now,” Teague told reporters on Tuesday.
Marcus Crowley also dealt with injuries last season and was hampered in his rehab by the Covid shutdown of the football program. Players were required to go home, and Crowley did not have the kind of rehab facilities available to him that are available at OSU. Crowley’s recovery was slowed and that kept him off the playing field for most of the season. He did see action in the national championship game when injuries at running back in that game forced OSU to go deep down the depth chart. Alford recalled that that experience was somewhat of an epiphany for Crowley.
‘He came to the sideline after a play and said he wanted to apologize,” said Alford. “He said I had told him he wasn’t ready yet and he didn’t believe me. After a few snaps in that game he saw where he needed work. It was an eye opener for him.”
Crowley’s main area of need for improvement was strength, and Alford said he has dilegently worked to address that issue. He is also now fully recovered from his injury which will also enhance his game.
“My cutting ability is much bettter now,” said Crowley. “At the end of the season I still couldn’t cut as sharply and quickly as I used to.”
A healthy, stronger Crowley will compete for playing time this fall.
Steele Chambers has seen the field some and has flashed as a tough runner who can break tackles and runs with good vision. He may also be his own worst enemy. While showing off the ability to take on and defeat tacklers he also has shown a tendancy to fumble while making second and third efforts. Nothing will get a running back on the bench faster at Ohio State than turning the ball over. Alford says that Chambers just needs to improve his confidence at this point in order to be a serious contender for playing time next fall.
Miyan Williams got onto the field some as a true freshman and impressed people when he did. At 5-8, 227 he is aptly nicknamed The Bowling Ball. Williams has the ability to bowl over tacklers, but aslo showed that he is not just a power runner.
“I think I’ve got speed and a little wiggle,” said Williams.
Williams quickly became a fan favorite with his determined running style. He does have power, but indeed also has speed and wiggle to be a nightmare for tacklers. He’s been working to improve on those aspects of his game.
“I’ve focused on working on my speed,” said Williams. “I want to be a better player than I was last year. I want to get faster.”
Williams appeared in the game against Clemson and performed well. He got an unexpected benefit from that performance.
“After that Clemson game my social media followers went way up,” said Williams
TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor – Because they came to OSU in the same recruiting class Henderson and Pryor have become linked in the minds of Buckeye fans. It turns out they are linked in other ways as well. Pryor committed first and before signing with the Buckeyes worked hard ro recruit Henderson. The two became friends during that process and now are roommates at Ohio State. Both were considered top-100 prospects on the 24/7 composite and Henderson was considered the number one running back prospect in the nation on that list. Pryor, meanwhile, was considered the number one all purpose back. Neither played football their senior season in high school due to the pandemic and both enrolled early at Ohio State.
Both Henderson and Pryor seem very mature and personable in their interviews. Henderson is seen as more of a take the handoff and go kind of runner, while Pryor adds skill as a route-runner in the passing game and the ability to make plays in space to his package. Both possess homerun speed and the ability to score from anywhere on the field.
So far both have done a great job in meetings, class and in the weight room, but on Wednesday the pads come on and that’s when the real test of a running back commences. Henderson says he is looking forward to that experience. “I’m looking forward to getting hit once, then I’ll be OK,” said Henderson. Pryor, meanwhile, had a different approach. “I’m going out there trying not to get hit because I want to score every time I touch the ball,” said Pryor.