Ohio State's running back recruiting efforts for the class of 2021 got off to a great start when the Buckeyes landed a commitment from four-star Evan Pryor, out of Hough High School in Cornelius, North Carolina, last week.
There are four skills in Pryor's game, in particular, that make him a perfect fit for what Ryan Day and Ohio State look for in a running back. Pryor's flashiest skill is his game-breaking speed and ability to score anytime he touches the ball. Pryor's running style is also exactly what Ohio State looks for, and he has the ability to be an offensive weapon and mismatch tool in the passing game. The least noticed but most important skill that Pryor already has is his willingness to pass block when necessary.
When all these skills are combined and put into Pryor's 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame, Ohio State could have a perfect fit at the running back position, and we break down those skills now.
Having been timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Pryor is faster than many of the running backs Ohio State has sent to the NFL in recent years. In short, not only will Pryor bring speed to Ohio State's offense, he may just bring another gear that Ohio State fans have not seen in awhile.
These three plays demonstrate Pryor's game-breaking speed and ability to score from anywhere on the field:
- Play one: Lined up at running back on his own 11-yard line, Pryor takes the handoff and runs past every defender in his path on his way to an 89-yard touchdown.
- Play two: Lined up at his own 30, Pryor takes the handoff around the left side of the offense. From there, he turns on the next gear and shakes past one defender, then proceeds to sprint past everyone else for a 70-yard touchdown.
- Play three: Heading right, Pryor takes the handoff at his 15-yard line and finds a crease then separates down the sideline for another long touchdown run.
Ohio State has had some fast running backs in recent years such as J.K. Dobbins, Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Weber, but Pryor might have them all beat in the speed column.
High school running backs often compose their highlights by reversing field or trying to juke out everyone, but not Pryor. He has a decisive and direct running style where he plants his foot, cuts left or right and then uses that rare speed to take off. Pryor's one-cut style fits right into Ohio State's running schemes, where the talented offensive linemen in front of him will create lanes.
Below are three plays where you can see Pryor take off, plant his foot, cut then hit the next gear:
- Play one: Pryor bursts through the line for an easy 25 yards, then plants his right foot and cuts to the left sideline on his way to the end zone while the deep safety ends up hitting his own teammate.
- Play two: Pryor shoots through the line of scrimmage going untouched for 15 yards before the cornerback tries to arm tackle him. He plants and cuts out to the sideline that he follows to the end zone.
- Play three: Similar to the first play, Pryor breaks through the first level of the defense, then with the safety coming downhill at him, Pryor plants his right foot and takes off to the left sideline for an easy touchdown.
Pryor's running style isn't the flashiest nor does it produce ankle-breaking juke highlights, but it scores touchdowns.
Gone are the days where a running back is used only for handoffs and does not catch the ball at all. In today's day and age, running backs are used as a pseudo wide receiver in some offenses. At Ohio State last season, Dobbins sometimes lined up out wide or in the slot, and Evan Pryor can do the same. At the high school level, he has experience playing both the inside and outside wide receiver positions, which point to the versatility he will bring to Ohio State.
- Play one: Lined up in the slot at the top of the screen, Pryor runs a deep in route and cleanly catches the ball across the middle of the field. After he secures the catch, Pryor runs to the sideline and turns upfield for a long touchdown catch.
- Play two: Pryor motions into the slot position from running back, then runs a wheel route down the sideline for another catch and long run for a touchdown.
- Play three: Lined up in the slot at the left of the screen, Pryor fakes a slant route and cuts to the end zone to get wide open for a touchdown catch.
Football is all about matchups and finding mismatches and with Pryor coming to Columbus, Day will have another offensive weapon to do that with.
Willing pass blocker
The least discussed but most important skill in Pryor's game that he will need in order to play at Ohio State is his willingness to pass protect. As Ohio State coaches have said in the past, if a running back wants to play in the scarlet and gray he has to be able to block, and Pryor will do that, as evidenced by the two plays below.
- Play one: Lined up behind the quarterback, Pryor sees the blitzer coming off the right side and stops him in his tracks before he even gets near the quarterback.
- Play two: To the left of the quarterback, Pryor sees the linebacker coming and rides him up the field while keeping the pocket clean and giving up no ground.
While Pryor's pass blocking technique isn't fully refined, his willingness will enable him to develop in that area when he gets to Ohio State.
After watching all these clips, it is clear to see why Tony Alford and the Buckeyes wanted Pryor so badly in their 2021 class. Simply put, he has the potential and skills to be get on the field quickly at Ohio State.