'We're not into making guys happy': Buckeyes' loaded running back room breeds competition

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

Tony Alford is not going to attempt the impossible.

The Ohio State running backs coach knows he has a stacked room. Usually, coaches at his position strive to have “a pair and a spare.” Alford has two pair and a spare. Master Teague III, Miyan Williams, Marcus Crowley and freshmen TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor give the Buckeyes plenty of options.

How can he keep all, or most, happy? Alford isn’t going to try.

“We're not into making guys happy,” Alford said. “This isn't a ‘happy camp.’ We're going to do whatever we need to do to win football games, whatever that looks like. We haven't solidified exactly how that's going to go yet as far as rep counts, but that'll play itself out.”

Alford said the coaching staff hasn’t discussed the depth chart at the position, though he has started to form an order in his mind.

Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said he'd be comfortable using Master Teague (33), Miyan Williams (28), TreVeyon Henderson (32) and Marcus Crowley in the season opener Sept. 2 at Minnesota.

Teague, a redshirt junior who has graduated and is pursing a Master's degree in architecture, is the veteran of the unit. He played last year after recovering from a torn Achilles tendon sustained early in spring practice. He ran for 530 yards and eight touchdowns last year while averaging 4.9 yards per carry. His role decreased when Trey Sermon went on his late-season tear.

Teague has speed and power and said he is working to improve his elusiveness.

“Master Teague has had the best camp since I’ve been here,” coach Ryan Day said.

Teague may be the nominal incumbent, but he knows he's not assured of starting.

“It keeps me on my toes,” Teague said. “That's great. Teammates making each other better, that's all you can ask for. Coming in here, I knew it's not going to be easy. Nothing's going to be handed to me, so I’m going to have to earn everything I get. I appreciate the competition.”

Williams was a three-star recruit from Cincinnati who was signed only after higher-rated prospects decommitted.

“Coming in, I felt like I was overlooked a lot,” he said. “I just felt like I had a point to prove, and I've got to prove it.”

Williams impressed as a true freshman in limited action last year and has continued that progress. He has taken a lot of first-team reps in camp. Williams's stocky build — he’s 5 feet 8 and 223 pounds after losing 10 pounds in the offseason — makes him hard for defenders to find and tackle.

Master Teague ran for 530 yards and eight touchdowns last year while averaging 4.9 yards per carry.

“He prepares like a pro,” Alford said. “He doesn't get flustered. Never too high, never too low with things that'll happen within practices or meetings. He brings great energy every single day, he's very serious about this game and he doesn’t make many mistakes.”

Henderson, a five-star recruit, probably has the most potential of any of the running backs. His highlight tape from high school in Virginia is a collection of dazzling plays showcasing his speed, vision and elusiveness. He, like Pryor, didn’t play his senior year because COVID-19 canceled his season.

Asked if he’d seen any highlight-worthy plays from Henderson in camp, Alford smiled.

“He’s had a few of those wow moments,” he said. “Yeah, he has.”

Henderson said he hopes he can make an immediate impact.

Freshman running back Treveyon Henderson has made an instant impact in camp. “I think Tre's really brought the level of that room up,” said coach Ryan Day.

“I've got a lot of expectations for myself,” Henderson said. “I don't want to put (my goals) out there, but I’ve got big expectations for myself.”

Crowley looked impressive in limited action as a freshman in 2019 until a knee injury ended his season and carried into last year. Now healthy, he’s hoping to make a push.

“His attitude has been fantastic,"  Alford said. "He's gained the weight the way we asked him to. Marcus has done everything that we've asked him to do, on and off the field.”

Alford said he’d be comfortable using Teague, Williams, Henderson or Crowley against Minnesota in the opener on Sept. 2 and said Pryor has made major strides in camp lately.

As camp enters the home stretch, a pecking order will have to emerge soon.

“If it was just one guy that was head and shoulders above the rest of the group, or even two, I would say so," Day said, "but I think they've all kind of brought something to the table. You can't play them all, but we'll roll guys, and we'll see if this is maybe a separator week in that room.”

Running back Miyan Williams has taken a lot of first-team reps in camp.

He praised all of the runners, but what he said about Henderson might be telling.

“I think Tre's really brought the level of that room up,” Day said.

Alford emphasized that the Buckeyes won’t be able to rely on just one or two running backs.

“It's a long season, and it's a grueling season,” he said. “The way we practice is physical so we're going to need all those guys.”


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