Running backs Trey Sermon, Master Teague expected to split carries for Ohio State football
Senior tight end Jake Hausmann offered a rosy prediction about Ohio State’s running game last week.
“I really don’t think we’re going to skip a beat,” he said.
Hausmann's optimism was notable because the Buckeyes no longer have J.K. Dobbins on the roster, their first-ever 2,000-yard rusher who took a majority of the carries last season.
But Hausmann sees promise in Trey Sermon and Master Teague III, Dobbins' most likely replacements.
“It's gonna be fun to watch these two guys,” Hausmann said.
In preseason practices, Sermon and Teague are splitting carries with the first-team offense and will likely continue once the season begins Oct. 24 against Nebraska.
“I think it'll be a 50/50 ballpark as we start,” offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said.
The workload that Dobbins assumed last season, averaging 21.5 rush attempts per game, was rare for this period in college football. Only one other Ohio State running back has averaged above 20 carries in a season in the past decade.
It stands to reason that the Buckeyes will rely largely on a combination of Sermon and Teague to split much of the backfield duties for most weeks.
“Every year you have to have more than one and it's even getting to the point in the college game with tempo, that you need to have more than two,” Wilson said.
Months ago, the Buckeyes’ backfield situation was far more questionable.
During the first week of spring practice, Teague suffered an Achilles tendon injury, leaving only one healthy scholarship running back in Steele Chambers available at the time.
It prompted the Buckeyes to pursue Sermon, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, once he entered the NCAA’s transfer portal in March.
Teague has since recovered from the injury, and his father, Corey, told The Dispatch last month that he had healed quickly enough that he would have been able to play had the season began in September as once scheduled.
And the postponement has offered a longer window to work himself back into playing shape.
“He's doing everything and looks really good,” Wilson said.
Teague is a more familiar option in the backfield for the Buckeyes’ coaching staff, having served as Dobbins’ backup last season and totaling 789 rushing yards on 135 carries. He often filled in late in blowout victories.
But the recent weeks have given the coaches their first opportunity to see Sermon up close, though a more revealing evaluation might come when the Buckeyes transition to padded practices this week.
“He's very smart, looks very good, catches it well, understands what we have,” Wilson said. “I haven't seen him deal with pads in the practice-hard environment or the game environment.”
Sermon does have experience in games. In three seasons at Oklahoma, he ran for 2,076 yards and 22 touchdowns on 339 carries.
Like Teague, he is also recovering from an injury. He hurt his left knee last November, sidelining him for the remainder of the season and placing him lower on the Sooners’ depth chart.
The delay to the season has allowed to him settle in at practices with Teague and acclimate to a new program. Both backs have impressed teammates.
“They both really understand how to practice hard,” tight end Jeremy Ruckert said. “Coming in, it must be tough to really understand and buy into the culture, but it seems like Trey really hasn't missed any steps with that. He comes in and he just practices hard.
“He's not really outspoken, he just does everything right. And then he looks like he's really promising out there. He's fast. He runs hard. It just seems like he understands a lot. And the same with Master. He's very reliable. He's a great guy, and it seems like they can be reliable every-down guys.”