Spring Breakdown: Ohio State Running Backs Deep and Ready


The Buckeyes lose leading rusher Trey Sermon but return starting running back Master Teague from last season. Teague rushed for 514 yards in seven games in 2020, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He led the team with eight rushing touchdowns. Every other running back behind him returns (save for Demario McCall), though none of them carried the ball more than 10 times. Sophomore Miyan Williams rushed for 60 yards on 10 carries last year as a true freshman, but was impressive in his limited opportunities. So was Steele Chambers, who averaged 9.6 yards per carry on nine attempts last year as a redshirt freshman. Marcus Crowley finally returned late last year from an ACL injury he suffered the year before as a true freshman. In 2019, he averaged 9.5 yards per carry on 25 attempts. Ohio State is also adding true freshmen TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor, both of whom were highly touted recruits. Walk-on Xavier Johnson is also back and is an integral piece of the OSU special teams.

Spring Depth Chart

33 Master Teague (rJr)
28 Miyan Williams (rFr) OR
22 Steele Chambers (rSoph) OR
24 Marcus Crowley (rSoph)
32 TreVeyon Henders (Fr) OR
21 Evan Pryor (Fr)

Three Questions

  1. How much better is Master Teague now that he is even more removed from his Achilles injury?
  2. How good are these freshmen?
  3. How do you get six guys reps?


You can expect running backs coach Tony Alford to put his guys through their paces and get the most out of each one of them. Even though Master Teague is the returning starter, there are snaps available this season and whoever shows up this spring is going to stake a claim to those snaps. This is going to be a hungry, competitive group and they’re all going to come out better for it. I am reminded of Alford’s comment when he was asked in 2018 how he intended to play JK Dobbins and Mike Weber in a way that would keep them both happy. He responded that it’s not his job to keep his players happy — it’s their job to keep him happy. So whoever makes Alford the happiest this spring and throughout summer workouts will be at the head of the class in fall camp.

What Needs to Happen

The Buckeyes need a pair and a spare this year. They’ve already got Master Teague as a proven commodity. Teague has rushed for over 1,400 yards in his career and has proven to be an effective and powerful runner. Finding two more guys they can trust this spring would eliminate a lot of worry and concern over the summer. The options are there for Alford, and so is the potential, so the optimism is understandably high. While Alford is looking for the two guys to run with Teague, the Buckeyes will also need Teague to continue to get better and show the necessary vision and explosion the position demands. If he doesn’t, he will leave himself open to a very competitive fall camp.

Worst Case

If the Buckeyes leave spring having just Master Teague to rely on, the spring will have been a disappointment, especially with so much excitement about Miyan Williams, TreVeyon Henderson, and Evan Pryor. That’s not a knock on Teague, that’s just the reality of a long season. Heck, even the short season of last year saw Ohio State down to their fourth running back against Alabama. A year ago at this time, head coach Ryan Day said the Buckeyes were just one more injury away from a crisis in the running back room. At that time, both Teague and Marcus Crowley were out and Trey Sermon wasn’t on campus yet.

Keep An Eye On

It took 13 months for Marcus Crowley to return from an ACL injury he suffered in 2019, which is a bit longer than most athletes. He saw some time on special teams against Northwestern and Clemson last year, then rushed for 14 yards on six carries against Alabama. Now even further removed from his injury in November of 2019, the hope is that he is much closer to his freshman form than he was a year ago. As a true freshman, Crowley was a tough runner who was able to make plays late in games. Can he contend for one of the top spots this spring and show that he’s ready for early-game touches? Crowley was the 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Florida, which isn’t something they hand out to just anybody. There was a ton of buzz surrounding Crowley before his injury. Let’s see if that buzz returns this spring.

One Last Thing

There are going to be three very entertaining freshmen to watch this spring. Miyan Williams maintained his redshirt from last year and has freshman eligibility this year. He impressed everyone last year, but did it with just 10 carries. We don’t really know what kind of runner he is over the long haul. Is he a big-play guy or just a station-to-station runner? We know he can make defenders look foolish at the line of scrimmage, but can he do it 30 yards down the field as well? If not, maybe the answer is one of — or both of — the true freshmen. TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor are explosive, dynamic runners who can make defenders miss and then get distance on them. It is always interesting to hear defenders begin to talk about young guys on offense stepping up in practice and making plays. Don’t be surprised when you keep hearing about the freshmen this spring.


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