Last spring was going to be a showcase for Ohio State redshirt freshman running back Steele Chambers. With both Master Teague and Marcus Crowley recovering from injuries, Chambers was in line for a ton of reps because he was the only healthy scholarship running back remaining for the Buckeyes. Before he could take advantage of his opportunity, however, things were shut down because of the pandemic and any kind of credit he could have built up was gone.
With no spring to improve his stock, Chambers finished fourth on the team in rushing, posting 86 yards on just nine attempts. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry, which was an increase from the already-impressive 7.1 yards per carry he averaged as a true freshman. Now in his third year and still technically a redshirt freshman if he wants to be, Chambers has rushed for 221 yards on 28 carries (7.9 ypc).
In his limited attempts Chambers has been impressive. But now he is part of a running back room that is deeper than it’s been in nearly 30 years. If he wants more than just the 19 carries as a freshman or nine carries as a redshirt, he’s going to have to do even more and be even better.
According to Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, Chambers can get there, he just needs to play with more confidence.
“The biggest thing I want Steele to do is to exude confidence,” Alford said. “Steele’s a perfectionist by nature. I know that there are times that he can get down on himself if something doesn’t go just as he planned exactly the way he planned in his own mind. One of the things I can help him do is continue to remind him that ‘hey, there is a little bump in the road here, we’re good, don’t get flustered. Don’t let one play affect the next.’ Meaning if you didn’t do something right on this play, don’t let it affect the next play and the next play. Or even times he does something right, he goes ‘Oh that wasn’t good enough.’ Like, hey man, champion what you’ve done and where you’ve been. But he’s getting better at that. So I’m anxious to see that. He’s had a good offseason.”
Chambers is a bigger back, listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, so he is a powerful runner. He has also shown good vision and enough shiftiness to find the second level of the defense on most of his runs. But now with both Teague and Crowley healthy, intriguing second-year back in Miyan Williams impressing last year, and two very talented true freshmen entering the picture, carries are going to very hard to come by. That hasn’t stopped Chambers’ development, but it has added to the speculation that Chambers — who was also an outstanding high school linebacker — could eventually be moved to the defensive side of the ball.
Alford admitted that he had heard some of that talk but was never any part of it.
“You know, I’ve heard that speculation, I’m not sure where it came from. It didn’t come out of this office,” he said. “It’s not something that I’ve had any conversations with him or his family or with coach Day. Steele Chambers is focused on being the best running back that he can be. I’m focused on helping him become the best he can be here, and we’ll go from there.”
There is no doubt that Chambers is an intriguing prospect as a running back. When he has played, he has produced. But no team can play six running backs regularly, so the competition to make it into the rotation will continue well into fall camp.
Each of the six will have their opportunities and Chambers has shown the ability to make the most of his. If that continues into the offseason and on into preseason camp, he could move towards the head of the line of what is going to be one of the nation’s deepest running back rooms.