Buckeyes freshman running backs Henderson and Pryor ready to make their mark

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State freshman running back Evan Pryor participates in a contact drill during a recent spring practice.

On a Sunday night several weeks ago, Ohio State football assistant coach Tony Alford got a FaceTime call from his early enrollee freshman running backs.

TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor were working out at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center and wanted guidance from their position coach.

“These two have somehow figured out how to get into the facility on a Sunday night,” Alford said Tuesday. “They’re working on pass protection, they’re having one of the receivers hold up a camera, and they’re having me coach some pass-protection drill stuff. So they’re hungry to learn.”

In a competitive running backs room that includes six scholarship players who could be worthy of playing time, Henderson and Pryor know they’re starting at the bottom as freshmen.

Their talent may be too evident to keep them there for long, though. Henderson is a five-star prospect from Virginia, the versatile Pryor a four-star recruit from North Carolina.

As two backs in the same recruiting class, Alford knows that outsiders want to pit Henderson and Pryor against each other, as if it’s a zero-sum game.

Alford doesn’t see it that way, and neither do the players. Alford pointed out that after Pryor committed to Ohio State, he actively recruited Henderson to join him.

The freshmen are roommates and friends. They also are different enough as players that they view each other as complementary.

Take their views about Wednesday’s first spring practice in full pads. Because neither played a senior season — the pandemic prompted Virginia and North Carolina to move high school football from last fall to this spring — they are eager for real football.

Ohio State freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson finds running room during a recent non-tackling practice.

“I’m a big competitor,” Henderson said. “I’m going to compete. I’m going to give it my all. I don’t back down or anything. When the pads come on, that lets you know who’s real and who’s not.”

Despite not seeing game action for more than 15 months, Henderson is unconcerned about rust.

“I don’t think it’s set me back,” he said. “We put the pads on Wednesday. All I need is that one good hit to wake me up and I’ll be good.”

Alford laughed about that.

“It’s funny hearing him say, 'I can't wait to get hit,’ ” Alford said. “Don’t worry, buddy, it’s coming.”

Whereas Henderson relishes contact, Pryor would rather evade it and get to the end zone. He’s an adept pass-catcher and believes he’s at his best in the open field.

“Regarding Wednesday, whatever happens, happens,” Pryor said. “I’m going to go hard and do what I do, which is to try not to get hit. But if it happens, oh well, we’re going to keep pushing.”

Alford raved about the way both freshmen have responded to coaching.

“The thing that’s probably impressed me the most is just their eagerness to learn,” he said. “They’re really hungry to learn, and they’re trying to take it all in. They’re both extremely, extremely coachable kids.

“They’re always on a quest. 'Give me more. Give me more.’ When you start coaching them and correcting them, they don’t take it personally. They want to know, 'What can I do better here?’ ”

Both freshmen said that their adjustment to college has gone smoothly. Because of the pandemic, Henderson’s entire recruitment was done virtually. He had never been on campus until arriving in January.

“Overall, the transition has been great,” Henderson said. “The coaches, I like them a lot. They’re what I expected, and Ohio State is what I expected.”

It has helped that he and Pryor are learning together, as both friends and competitors.

“We compete in everything,” Pryor said. “If Tre cooks something, then I’ll cook something and see what tastes better. On the field as well, we’re pushing each other.

“But that’s not just us. That’s all guys in the room, striving to be as great as we can be and fighting for a spot to play.”