Football

Tony Alford, Buckeye Running Backs Talk Spring Ball, Battle to Start

Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford spoke with reporters today to preview spring ball for the Buckeyes. He answered a number of questions about his running backs and how things will shake out this spring. Also joining the festivities

Tony Alford

— It’s a great RB room. The older guys have really taken to the young guys. “Great group of kids. They all come from great homes.” Really good guys and competitive. They also champion each other’s efforts. Older guys help the younger guys. Very unselfish room.

— He’s said it his entire career, they’re going to do whatever it takes to win games. If that’s a two-back system, they’ll do it. When people complain that it wasn’t successful in the past, he disagrees. The players need to grow and if they emerge and deserve to play, then they’ll play. Right now they’re just trying to get better each day and go from there.

— If they had a game tomorrow, Master Teague would start because he’s got the experience. But there are a lot of guys who can play. He’s excited to see what Miyan Williams can do in year two. “You get what you earn.”

— He’s not going to put pressure on the freshmen by comparing them to JK Dobbins in 2017. The freshmen are explosive and they have some burst.

— He’s never played six guys in a game. They always have honest conversations with the players abotu where they stand in terms of playing time. Now is not the time for those conversations. The job is to develop players and win football games. The guys who prove they can play winning football consistently will be the guys who play.

— Moving forward, Master Teague’s ability to make plays in space needs to get better. The offensive line is going to provide opportunities to get into the second and third level and so the RBs need to be able to make guys miss. He’s like to see everybody work on that.

— The freshmen haven’t played football in a long time. Since they were juniors in high school. “It’s funny to hear [TreVeyon Henderson] say he can’t wait to get hit. Well don’t worry buddy, it’s coming here soon.” They are extremely coachable. They called him up on a Sunday night and were asking him about pass protection in late January. Everybody wants to pit guys against each other, but these guys want to help each other get better. “I’m thrilled with where they’re at.”

— Marcus Crowley dealt with frustrations last year because he wanted to play. Then he played against Alabama and apologized to Alford because he was right — Crowley wasn’t ready to play. But he has worked hard and looks good and Alford is excited to see what he does this spring because Crowley is a very talented player. He’s gotten bigger and stronger.

— The small things are going to tip the skills in a room that has six running backs. Did you catch a swing pass or not? Did you sustain your block? The talent is equated in that room so the guys who are consistently great are the ones that are going to separate themselves.

— It’s great to have so many numbers to practice with. “They’re fun kids. It’s a joy to come to work.” There’s not a whole lot of foolishness going on in his room. They’re not in trouble. They are on time and they do what they’re asked when they’re asked. He’s blessed to have players like this and he means that. Their families should be proud of how they represent OSU and their own family names.

— The brotherhood in the RB room is not unique at OSU. Evan Pryor helped recruit TreVeyon Henderson. “They were talking all the time.” So now when you thrust them into a room together, they’re already friends and comfortable with each other. You need more than one guy that can play. “And they’ve taken to that.” That’s the culture of the entire locker room and that starts with Ryan Day. One school trying to recruit both freshmen tried to pit them against each other.

— Preparing for this spring has been different but he told his players that there will be some days when guys don’t get as many reps as the others. There are certain things he needs to design so he can see and learn about a player, so that player might get more reps so that he can check off some boxes. “It’s a little unique” compared to previous years, but it’s a fun challenge. Every day he needs to have a clear and concise plan for what he wants to see.

— Speculation that Steele Chambers could move to linebacker has not come out of the Ohio State offices. He’s focused on being a running back. He’s pleased with his development. The biggest thing he wants from Chambers is to exude self confidence. He’s a perfectionist so sometimes he can get down on himself when things don’t go perfectly. So he has to remind Chambers not to let one play affect the next play and the next play. “He’s had a good offseason.”

— Who does he need to see the most from? He hasn’t thought about that. Every guy has things they need to work on. They each have something they need to show him.

— Not sure if Master Teague was 100% at the start at the season but he was there by the end of the season. He’s a genetic freak in some regards, but is also an unbelievable worker.

— The game is different than when he played in an Earle Bruce offense. It was good for him because he was going to get a bunch of carries as a starter. He knew he wasn’t going to be pulled for a 2-yard carry. It allowed him to get into a routine, so he understands and respects that regarding other RBs.

— Extremely talented quarterbacks. They all have big arms. Great kids. Highly competitive. “Very much like my room.” They help each other out. Todd Fitch is helping too. “I think it’s a great room.” They all have innate leadership qualities.

— It’s tough to teach patience. He doesn’t want his players to wait their turn. “Come take a job.” “I don’t want them to be patient.” He wants his players to show the staff that they have no choice but to play them. But at the same time, if you’re not the best, you need to get better and don’t think things are going to be given to you.

Marcus Crowley

— His health is 100%. Last year was a long journey following the ACL tear in 2019. Then with COVID, it was harder to rehab than it should have been. “Shout out to all of the trainers. I feel good for this upcoming season.”

— “I really don’t have a view on the competition.” Everybody is striving to be their best.

— Going into last spring, everything got shut down. He wasn’t allowed to rehab at OSU. He didn’t have the same treatment back home that he had back home. He had to do everything pretty much on his own.

— He wasn’t surprised that he played against Alabama “because I was putting in the work.” It was his goal to get back on the field last year and make an impact.

— His cutting is better than it was last year. He still wasn’t able to cut as sharply or quickly as he can now. That comes from more treatment and rehabbing with the OSU trainers.

— He feels like he’s back to his freshman form and even better but won’t really know until they put pads on.

— His decision making and athletic ability are his strengths that he can bring to this team.

Master Teague

— It’s a little weird being the old guy in the room. It went fast, but it’s taken a while at the same time. But he gets to pour his knowledge into the team. They want to be the best unit in the building if they can. “We’re off to a good start.” The room has good energy.

— The freshmen are doing great. High attention to detail and they’re learning great. He helps them as much as he can. “They’re going through their process. Everybody is making each other better.”

— The winter workouts were a return to a little bit of normalcy. Allowed them to get stronger and faster. “It definitely felt good.” It was a relief to get back to workouts.

— The freshmen have such attention to detail and they catch on quick. They are close to each other. They have a bond. They don’t make the same mistakes the next day.

— He feels good. He felt good last year too. No issues with his Achilles.

— “Of course I want to be that guy.” His role will be whatever is best for the team. There is depth and that helps in practice too.

— He eventually wants to be an architect. It’s something he’s passionate about. He wants to serve the community in that kind of role.

Miyan Williams

— It was fun to play in the playoffs. It was an experience.

— He showed a little bit of speed and wiggle last year which can help him get on the field this year too.

— Everybody needs to come to practice each day with the focus on getting better and the depth charts will take care of themselves.

— He was able to help against Clemson because he prepared for it and he was ready.

— He thinks he proved some people wrong and people started talking about him and noticing. It doesn’t affect him.

— He is focused on being a better player than he was last year. He wants to get faster for this year.

— He has told the freshmen to go hard every day and try to be better than you were the day before.

— What makes him unique as a runner? He can get low when he runs. People lose him. He never had a big offensive line in high school. “We were all the same height.” But in college it’s pretty hard to see him when he has the ball.

— Spring is time for everyone to see where they need to improve, whether it’s footwork, speed, strength. “It’s like an extra season to better yourself.”

TreVeyon Henderson

— He worked hard preparing for this spring. They didn’t have a fall football season. He worked with a track coach to stay in shape. He doesn’t think it set him back. They put the pads on tomorrow and all he’ll need is one good hit to wake him up and t hen he’ll be good.

— The older guys give him a lot of tips and help him every day. He knows what he’s doing now and where to go.

— The transition to OSU has been great. He likes the coaches. This has been what he’s expected even though he never visited Ohio State as a recruit. Being in the WHAC is motivation.

— Master Teague is a great mentor. He showed him what to do and where to go because he’s never been here and didn’t know much.

— When the pads go on, he’s going to compete and not back down. The pads let you know who’s real and who’s not. The six RBs will all make each other better.

— How do you earn trust? “Making plays and paying attention to details.” Correcting mistakes as well.

— He’d rather not talk about what he can do on the field, he’d rather just show it and let other people talk about it.

— What does he need to do to be in the rotation? Just remain consistent.

Evan Pryor

— No clue how this season is going to shake out. Just grinding every day.

— It was crazy when he first got here. It was a new experience, but things are slowing down for him. “I feel like I’m juggling it well.”

— His ability to make plays in space and his route running sets him apart.

— His best attribute as a runner? He can hit a home run from anywhere on the field.

— It’s been great being around the running backs and getting to know them. They know it’s a competition but you have to build a brotherhood first.

— It’s a major adjustment being here. You have to grow up quickly. Nobody is going to hold your hands. You have to make good decisions. “Being on your own hits you.”

— He and TreVeyon Henderson are roommates but compete in everything, even cooking. They have separate pots.

— He loves Columbus.

— Pryor missed his senior season as well. The first day of spring ball was fast, so he had to adjust to that as well. He’ll go hard on Wednesday and try not to get hit. “My goal every time is to go to the end zone.”