It’s a story as old as time — Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford being asked every year if the Buckeyes are going to have a workhorse or if they’re going to go “running back by committee.”
And every year the answer is the same, though now it’s starting to get a bit saltier.
“I say the same thing every time, whatever it takes to win games that’s what we’re going to do,” he said this week.
And he’s right. Alford arrived in 2015 and the Buckeyes relied on Ezekiel Elliott to carry the load. Mike Weber did it the next year, followed by a freshman JK Dobbins in 2017. Then Weber and Dobbins shared the workload in 2018.
Prior to the season, Alford was asked how he would keep both Dobbins and Weber happy. His response was that it’s not his job to keep his players happy, it’s their job to keep him happy.
Truer words have never been spoken, but the questions will continue with each successive season. In other words, the more things change, the more things stay the same.
“We’re not into making guys happy,” Alford said on Wednesday. “This isn’t a ‘happy camp.’ We’re going to do whatever we need to do to win football games, whatever that looks like. We haven’t solidified exactly how that’s going to go yet as far as the rep counts and things like that, but that’ll play itself out.”
The Buckeyes are wrapping up camp and will scrimmage on Saturday before really diving into the preparation for their season opener against Minnesota. Depth charts will begin shaking out, roles will be set. Part of that will involve the running backs, because with five talented options on scholarship, it’s going to be impossible to play all of them regularly.
Alford hasn’t yet started figuring who is going to play when and how much, but that time is getting near.
“We’ll sit down as a staff and start discussing those things in the days to come, as we get closer to the game, 15 days away I believe it is,” Alford said. “But we haven’t done that or talked about that just yet. I mean, I’m starting to have an idea, just for myself, but we haven’t sat down to discuss that yet.”
An onlooker at an Ohio State practice can see redshirt freshman Miyan Williams, fourth-year junior Master Teague, and true freshman TreVeyon Henderson all getting reps with the first team. Reports out of camp have Williams in the lead, but Teague has been pushed by the younger guys and has improved from last year. Then there’s the freshman Henderson, who could be the most talented player on the entire Buckeyes roster.
And there’s also redshirt sophomore Marcus Crowley and true freshman Evan Pryor. The talent is all over the place, and Alford is happy with where his position group is right now.
“I know for a fact I feel good about those guys. I could put them all in games,” Alford said. “Some days guys have better days than others. That’s the natural tendency of things. That’s kind of the ebb and flow and ups and downs, but I feel good about all those guys right now.”