Tony Alford, Ohio State Likely Still on the Hunt for Another 2019 Tailback

By Andrew Ellis on March 20, 2018 at 2:30 pm
Tony Alford has been recruiting at an elite level since his arrival in Columbus.

It has become a common theme.

Ohio State's 2019 recruiting class landed a major piece yesterday when four-star tailback Sampson James announced his intentions. It's hardly a surprise to see Tony Alford and Urban Meyer snag yet another one of the country's top backs, but adding the Avon, Indiana standout this early in the process is certainly worthy of some excitement. 

It's been a great run for Ohio State tailbacks. Ezekiel Elliott is clearly the guy that comes to mind when looking at the backs who have come and gone since Meyer's arrival, but Carlos Hyde has quietly put together a nice career and will look to continue that with his move to Cleveland. With Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins next in line, the Buckeyes' backfield momentum is showing no signs of slowing down.

While the dust hasn't even settled yet on Alford's latest addition, it's always wise to look down the road a bit to gauge what could be going through the minds of the Columbus brain trust. The new recruiting calendar and looming spring official visits mean that coaching staffs across the country may need to plan things out a bit earlier than what we've grown accustomed to.

With a talented stable that should be in place for several years, should the Buckeyes' 2019 recruiting efforts still be looking toward the backfield? 

Early Outlook: Tailback Depth for 2019
Player Class Measurables Career Stats
Mike Weber Senior (RS) 5-foot-10, 212 pounds 1,722 rushing yards, 6.1 ypc, 19 TD
Antonio Williams Senior 5-foot-11, 210 pounds 318 yards, 5.0 ypc, 3 TD
J.K. Dobbins Junior 5-foot-10, 212 pounds 1,403 rushing yards, 7.2 ypc, 7 TD
Brian Snead RS Fr./So. 5-foot-11, 200 pounds TBD
Master Teague RS Fr./So. 5-foot-11, 215 pounds TBD
Sampson James Freshman 6-foot-1, 211 pounds NA

Next year at this time the Buckeyes are on track to have six tailbacks on the roster. Of course there's bound to be some attrition and it would hardly be a surprise for Mike Weber to forego his redshirt senior campaign. We've got Weber on the board now, but it's important to note that there's a very real chance that he's off to the NFL after 2018. 

J.K. Dobbins took Columbus by storm last fall and it's already fair to consider that the Texas native could be gone after his junior year. Antonio Williams will be a senior in 2019, and while he's yet to light the world on fire, he has provided some nice depth at the position. 

Master Teague – a 2018 signee – is already on campus and early reports have been extremely positive. With Brian Snead set to arrive this summer, the Buckeye newcomers are going to be in a tough spot to see playing time in the coming season. It wouldn't be a total surprise if Snead or Teague add some depth, but a redshirt season could be in the cards for both. 

The Buckeyes also have two talented athletes in Demario McCall and Jaelen Gill, but the sophomore and true freshman are likely to fit in more of the H-Back role; at least for the foreseeable future. A switch over to running back could potentially complicate things a bit more.

Since Meyer arrived prior to the 2012 season, Ohio State has typically seen about four tailbacks record rushing stats each season. Obviously you have to look beyond just the contributors, though, and consider the depth factor as well as what lies ahead.

For instance, the 2013 season saw Carlos Hyde lead the way with 208 carries while Jordan Hall, Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Warren Ball also chipped in a bit. 2015 was a different case as Elliott was the bell cow with 289 carries while Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball combined for just 24. 

One thing that seems to be coming – and I believe the vast majority are excited about it – is the changing of how Ohio State quarterbacks are utilized. Clearly J.T. Barrett had his passing deficiencies, but he was a formidable threat with his legs. Dwayne Haskins is a completely different player and the Buckeyes' recruiting strategy seems to be transitioning toward that type of quarterback. 

A change in the quarterback play will likely bring on a number of other changes. While the passing game is destined to improve, someone is going to have to take some of the carries that otherwise would have gone to J.T. Barrett. That could be Dobbins, or Weber, or it may cause for some of the players lower on the totem pole to get more of an opportunity. 

If you're on the fence as to whether or not Meyer and Alford should look to bring in another 2019 tailback, then perhaps watching how the offense evolves from Barrett to Haskins/Burrow will be enough to sway you in one direction. The expectation is for a more potent passing game and more reliance on the backs. 

On that fateful November Saturday when Barrett carried the ball 15 times against Michigan State while Ezekiel Elliott ended the game with just 12 touches, everyone was rightfully questioning what the hell was going on with the offense. We all continue to hope that nothing like that ever happens again.

For the Class of 2019, tailbacks such as Noah Cain, Devyn Ford, and Deondrick Glass all are very much still in the picture. The Buckeyes have prioritized Cain for some time now, and we've been told that he and Sampson James are 1a and 1b on the staff's board. Texas and LSU are probably the stiffest competition for the Lone Star State native, but Alford has done a phenomenal job thus far. 

The Buckeyes remain one of the top options for five-star Devyn Ford, but the Hokies still appear to be the favorites. Ford is expected to take a number of visits this spring and is a top-of-the-board target for a number of schools, including Penn State and Clemson.

We haven't had a lot of discussion about Glass, but he plays for a tradition-rich program and the Buckeyes have been involved for nearly a year now. The lone crystal ball pick is in favor of LSU, but the Katy, Texas four-star does't appear to be leaning any particular way. 

This spring's official visits will be worth watching as some prospects will head to Columbus while others will need to be removed from the recruiting board. New offers will inevitably be extended as the Buckeyes once again chase the top spot in the recruiting rankings. 

Ohio State already has one great one in the fold, but the coming season's tailback utilization may very well have everyone wanting more. 

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