Torrance Gibson, the nation’s No. 1 dual threat quarterback recently tweeted this little gem to the nation's No. 1 running back, Damien Harris:
The tweet should get fans of programs pursuing the duo excited. It’s not often a team lands two top recruits at the quarterback and running back positions. So it got me thinking, when was the last time the Buckeyes had two No. 1 recruits operating in the backfield together?…and how did that pan out?
In order to find out, its necessary to go back to 2008. Buckeye Nation was abuzz with anticipation after all-everything recruit, Terrelle Pryor, pledged his—albeit delayed—allegiance to the Buckeyes. Fans salivated at the thought of having the 6’6’’, 235 pound dual threat running the offense, but it was who he would be paired with that whipped Columbus into a frenzy; running back, Chris “Beanie” Wells.
The former No. 1 recruit was ready to begin his junior season after a stellar sophomore campaign. In his second season, Beanie rushed for 1,609 yards and 15 TDs. And just like that…the Buckeyes looked to have one of the most dangerous backfields in the country.
Of course Terrelle had yet to prove anything at the college level, and it looked as though he’d have to wait to get his shot. Returning was senior quarterback Todd Boeckman, a player who led the Buckeyes on an improbable national championship run the year prior.
Boeckman would start the first two games against Youngstown State and Ohio University before laying an egg in an embarrassment at the Coliseum. The 35-3 loss forced Tressel to shake things up, inserting Pryor into the starting lineup against Troy. Terrelle’s performance lived up to the billing, going 10-16 for 139 yards and 4 TDs.
The Pryor era had officially arrived, but fans would have to wait until the following week for the Pryor/Wells hydra to be unleashed. Downed with turf toe in the team’s first tilt, Wells was out of commission for the most of the squad's first four games.
In week five fans would finally get a glimpse of the two...and they delivered. Against the Gophers the power couple rolled up 66% of the team’s total offense and had a hand in 21 of the squad’s 34 points.
But, it was the next week against Wisconsin that truly proved how dangerous the two could be. Pryor and Wells accounted for 95% of the team’s offense but highlighting that stat would be burying the lead. It was the threat of either player charging into the endzone at the end of the game that ultimately won it for the Buckeyes.
Down 13-17 with roughly a minute left to play, Pryor rolled to his left with Wells trailing him for a potential pitch. Tasked with accounting for both players, Wisconsin’s defense flinched. All it took was a shoulder shimmy for a defender to bite on Wells and Pryor had a clear path to the endzone. Game. Blouses.
The win kept Ohio State’s national championship hopes alive, but not for long. Three weeks later, those aspirations were dashed by a 13-6 loss to Penn State in the ‘Shoe. Still, the two helped power an impressive season that saw wins against No. 20 Michigan State, No. 24 Northwestern and Michigan (a 42-7 throttling).
In all, Pryor and Wells’ campaign together was more than impressive. The two accounted for 69% of the team’s total yardage, and 26 of the squad’s 42 total TDs.
Not all top recruits pan-out, but Wells and Pryor certainly did. The speed and power combination was a veritable force for most of 2008. Unfortunately that was the only season they spent together. Imagine what could have been with more than 10 episodes of the Pryor/Wells road show.
Gibson and Harris have that chance. If they commit to the same school AND if they're half as deadly as Pryor and Wells, the college football world is in for a treat.