Football

Spring Gleaning: Buckeye Running Backs As Deep As Ever

Now that spring football is over, it’s time to look back at exactly what we just saw. We’ll go over each position group over the next two weeks with what was learned and what still needs to happen. Up next will be the Ohio State running backs.

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Quick Position Overview

The Buckeyes have six scholarship running backs and it sure seems like they’re all good enough to play. Fourth-year junior Master Teague is the incumbent, but he’s got some guys behind him pushing for carries. Redshirt freshman Miyan Williams emerged as the No. 3 back last year, but that may have been because Marcus Crowley wasn’t healthy. Now a redshirt sophomore, Crowley is back from an ACL injury and looking good. Classmate Steele Chambers has promise and shows it when he gets the opportunity. True freshmen TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor enrolled early and both provide big-play potential. Henderson was the top running back recruit in the nation and Pryor wasn’t too far behind.

Expectations Going In

Spring ball was expected to be a varied display of talent from a diverse group of running backs and it would begin with Master Teague as the incumbent. What happened behind him would be anybody’s guess, but there was plenty to be excited about. Miyan Williams intrigued everyone in a limited showing last year and he was expected to pick up right where he left off. Marcus Crowley was expected to be fully healthy and back to his freshman form, which meant he could end up making some noise. There was some thought from outside the football facility that Steele Chambers could be moving to linebacker just because of the glut of tailbacks. And freshmen TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor were expected to be the guys that everybody on the outside wanted to know about. Henderson was even seen by some as a contender to wrest the starting job away from Teague.

Reality Coming Out

Master Teague left spring as the presumed starter but nothing is in stone at this point. Everything behind him is a question mark in terms of pecking order, but the best guess is listed below. The good news is that the questions have solid answers, and a number of those answers could also push Teague for the starting spot by the end of the season. Don’t expect players to be satisfied with their respective standings, which means they will either continue to work to improve their positions or they’ll move on.

Any Surprises?

Steele Chambers may be the best answer here because he probably had the least expected of him simply because somebody has to be on the bottom of the attention totem pole. Chambers had some ball-control issues last year but things appear to have improved on that front over the offseason. Even though there were rumors or thoughts about linebacker for him early, position coach Tony Alford said that’s never been a thought inside the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. You won’t find many coaches eager to lose a guy who has averaged 8.1 yards per carry during his collegiate career.

Unanswered Question

If you have a loaded running back room going into spring and then everybody in that room performs well during camp, have you actually made any headway? The answer is yes, but it hasn’t done anything to alleviate the fire marshal’s concerns about occupancy limits being exceeded. Ohio State has its most talented running back room in 30 years, which is good news for Tony Alford and bad news for the bottom half of the depth chart. Alford has never played six guys and doesn’t anticipate doing it this year. Spreading the carries that thin would also never allow for anybody to get into a groove during the game.

So Now What?

So now the work continues because this isn’t a competition that’s just going to take the summer off. Tony Alford will have conversations with each of his players and they will have their directives put plainly. Each player will have the option of attacking those directives or watching their chances of playing dissipate. The talks will be clear and some of them will be uncomfortable, but as Urban Meyer used to say, that’s life in the big city. Every running back on this Ohio State roster is good enough to play, but being good enough is only one of the prerequisites.

One Concern

Master Teague’s 4.9 yards per carry last year is not good enough for an Ohio State starting running back. It’s down nearly an entire yard from his 5.8 yards per carry in 2019. He needs to be much closer to his 2019 numbers than his average from last year. When JK Dobbins averaged just 4.5 yards per carry in 2018, there were constant questions, but he proved in 2019 and 2017 that his 2018 season was an aberration (thanks in part to a quarterback who couldn’t run and an offensive line that was more geared to pass block than run block). Can Teague get back to his 5.8 yards per carry in 2019 or 6.2 in 2018? Six yards per carry should be attainable for every starting running back at Ohio State. At this point it’s almost the bare minimum. Trey Sermon averaged 7.5 yards per carry last year. Dobbins went for 6.6 ypc in 2019 and 7.2 in 2017. Even Mike Weber hit the 6 ypc mark in 2016. What the Buckeyes got from Teague last year should be improved upon this year, especially now that he is even further removed from his Achilles injury he suffered a year ago.

Are We Sure?

Are we sure it’s not time for the Diamond formation?

Quotable

“If we started a game [Master Teague] would be since he’s become a starter and he’s played the most and had the most reps of anybody in the room. But there’s other really good players here too, and I’m really anxious to watch Miyan Williams. Here’s a guy that had a smattering of carries, a very small sample size, but what he did have he was very successful in those opportunities. And so he’s continuing to grow into the program and this offense. Marcus Crowley is coming back. Steele’s had his moments. Now you got two young guys, so guys are going to get their opportunities. They’re going to get their opportunities and they’re going to get their reps this spring. And like we say at any and all positions here, you get what you earn. And if those opportunities are deserved and earned, then they’ll be there for them.” — RB coach Tony Alford when asked early this spring how he sees carries shaking out this year and if Master Teague is still the starter.

Depth Chart

33 Master Teague | Redshirt Junior | 5-11 226
Master Teague is the Buckeyes’ returning starter and remained with the ones throughout spring. He is still in line to take the first snaps this year.
28 Miyan Williams | Redshirt Freshman | 5-8 227
Miyan Williams is pushing Master Teague for reps, but he’s also being pushed by everyone else on this list, which is only going to make him better.
24 Marcus Crowley | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-1 213 OR
Marcus Crowley is healthy for the first time since November of 2019 and showed what he can do this spring. He is one of the hungriest players on the team.
22 Steele Chambers | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-1 220 OR
Steele Chambers has only ever been productive carrying the ball and that continued over the last month. He is big and strong and has shown good vision.
32 TreVeyon Henderson | Freshman | 5-10 210
Most see TreVeyon Henderson as the future of the position at Ohio State. Some even see him as the present. There is a lot to like here.
21 Evan Pryor | Freshman | 5-10 197
Evan Pryor certainly had his moments this spring as he showcased some home-run-hitting ability. He may be a redshirt candidate simply because of numbers.