Tailback Tango: Ryan Day, Jim Harbaugh Locked in Battles for Two of the Country's Top 2021 Running Backs

By Andrew Ellis on November 27, 2019 at 8:35 am
Ryan Day and Jim Harbaugh will be seeing plenty of one another with the Class of 2021.

Ohio State topped Penn State on Saturday and wasted little time adding an important piece to the 2020 recruiting class. The commitment from Cincinnati (Winton Woods) tailback Miyan Williams helped to address what was really the lone remaining need in the class.

While the Buckeyes are still looking for another quarterback, the tailback saga has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride for both Ryan Day and Tony Alford. The successful flip of the former Iowa State pledge was a big deal, and there's still a chance to add one more for 2020.

J.K. Dobbins is expected to test the NFL waters after this season, and the backfield stable would then be left with Master Teague, Marcus Crowley, Steele Chambers, and Miyan Williams when he arrives. Demario McCall should be around to fill more of the all-purpose back role. 

As things stand right now, the more realistic option appears to be taking a pair of tailbacks for the Class of 2021. Per usual, there are a number of targets throughout the country including North Carolina's Evan Pryor and Georgia native turned IMG Academy star Lovasea Carroll.

But it's the best of the Midwest that could make up the top Buckeye/Wolverine recruiting battles for the 2021 cycle. To make things even more interesting, one hails from Cincinnati while the other suits up in West Bloomfield, Michigan. And the two rivals are right at the top of the list for each one. 

Four-star Donovan Edwards is the top-rated tailback in the region, and he currently checks in as the third-best in America. West Bloomfield is less than 40 miles northeast of Ann Arbor, so it's no surprise that Edwards has been on Michigan's campus several times already. 

The 5-foot-11 190-pounder made a couple of big-time visits this fall as he was in Columbus for the Buckeyes' beatdown of Michigan State and was at the Big House to watch the Wolverines take down the Irish. Edwards is considering making some SEC visits as well and he holds offers from the likes of Georgia and Florida.

Most are expecting this to come down to the Big Ten rivals with the Wolverines being the current leader in the crystal ball. Edwards already has some friends in Ann Arbor and four-star 2020 safety Makari Paige – a teammate at West Bloomfield – is committed to the Wolverines and on track to sign next month. 

Edwards has often cited his strong relationship with Tony Alford and has taken note of the success that J.K. Dobbins has enjoyed in Columbus. The Buckeyes are in the thick of this recruitment – which appears to have a long way to go – but it will be tough pulling Michigan's third-best prospect away from the Wolverines. 

The top running back in the state of Ohio has also been a bit of a regular in Ann Arbor. Cincinnati's Corey Kiner grew up rooting for the Buckeyes, but he's made the four-hour trip to Michigan multiple times since being offered in January. The Wolverines were involved a bit earlier in this one as Ohio State didn't extend an offer until this past May. 

Kiner has maintained contact with both staffs and has noted that his recruitment will go on into his senior year. He also holds offers from the rest of the Midwest powers including Notre Dame, Penn State, and Wisconsin. While the tailback board is still coming together, the No. 7 player in the state is another prospect the Buckeyes will look to keep home. 

Ohio State's recent struggles at running back are a bit bewildering. Tony Alford has proven himself as a great coach and recruiter, and J.K. Dobbins has looked like the best back in America as the Buckeyes' ground game is ranked fourth behind only a trio of triple-option offenses. 

Meanwhile, Michigan hasn't gotten much going with a running game that sits at No. 76. True freshman Zach Charbonnet has been productive with 11 touchdowns, but that comes with just 635 yards while serving as the team's lead back. That's over 200 yards shy of what Master Teague has produced in his backup role. 

Right now it looks like both Donovan Edwards and Corey Kiner will be names to watch throughout the 2021 cycle. There's a long way to go before the class will be able to make official visits let alone sign letters of intent, but the Buckeyes have work to do in each of these recruitments if they do in fact elect to prioritize the Midwest's top backs. 

Ohio State and Michigan are always seeing plenty of one another on the trail, and it's mostly been one-sided ever since Urban Meyer's arrival in 2011. Last November, the Wolverines surged and took the lead in the recruitment of five-star defensive end Zach Harrison. It's now a year later and the talented pass-rusher is looking like the next big thing for Larry Johnson. 

This time around, it may be the 2021 tailback duo that's at the forefront of the Ohio State/Michigan recruiting scene. The Buckeyes will have the opportunity to impress once again when the touted rushing attack arrives in Ann Arbor this weekend. 

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