How Tony Alford's Departure Impacts Ohio State's Running Back Recruiting

By Garrick Hodge on March 14, 2024 at 8:35 am
Tony Alford

The news of Tony Alford’s departure came suddenly on Wednesday morning.

After nine seasons at Ohio State, the longtime Buckeyes running back coach is heading north to their archrival, a move that caught several OSU players off guard. The timing probably isn’t ideal, considering the Buckeyes are in the midst of spring practice. Nevertheless, life goes on, and Ryan Day will do his best to pivot and hire a replacement quickly. 

Alford’s unexpected departure creates questions both short and long-term, but for the purposes of this piece, we’ll mainly stay focused on the immediate impact. There’s likely at least some urgency from Ohio State’s side to find a quality replacement as soon as possible, but maybe not for the reason you think. 

TreVeyon Henderson and Dallan Hayden have both been at Ohio State for multiple seasons and are well-versed with what the Buckeyes like to do offensively. Quinshon Judkins has only been on campus a few months, but this is a player who has run for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in the SEC.

In short, regardless of whoever Ohio State hires as its next running backs coach, the position is in great hands for the 2024 season. Whether it's Day, Chip Kelly or a combination of the two, surely OSU can pick up the slack coaching running backs in spring practices in the interim.

The bigger question at hand is on the recruiting trail. 

As it stands, OSU has no running backs committed in the 2025 class but hopes to add multiple tailbacks this cycle. Before Alford’s departure, the Buckeyes were in great standing with several premier running backs, both in-state and on the national level. That’s not to say any of those targets will suddenly not consider OSU any less than they already are, but they’re understandably going to want clarity on the situation as soon as they can get it. 

That's primarily because a strong number of prospects are slated to visit Ohio State this spring. For example: 

  • Four-star 2025 California prospect Jordon Davison will be in Columbus with his family on March 27 until April 1.
  • Four-star 2025 Ohio running back Bo Jackson is slated to be back on campus March 30.
  • Five-star running back Savion Hiter, the top-ranked running back in the 2026 cycle, will also be in Columbus on March 30.

Four-star in-state 2025 prospect Marquise Davis will also likely take a visit to OSU sometime within the next few weeks and three-star Virginia prospect Jeffery Overton has locked in an official visit for May 31, though Alford’s replacement should be long hired by then.

In a perfect world, whoever is hired starts within the next two weeks to keep in line with running backs taking visits to campus, assuming none push back their visit dates, of course. As it has shown various times this offseason, Ohio State has no shortage of resources at its disposal and should land an attractive candidate for the position. While a quick, impactful hire would be ideal obviously, it's not necessarily the end of the world if the search has to go further into the spring to ensure Day and OSU get the right fit.

But regardless of who is hired and when they start, they could be building relationships from ground zero, unless they’re poached from another Power Five institution and have already laid the groundwork with several of OSU's targets. Either way, they’ll be starting at the beginning in terms of selling Ohio State. 

Alford, on the other hand, will not be starting anew. The now-former OSU coach certainly had a few warts on the recruiting trail in his OSU tenure. Namely, the now infamous yearly tradition of a South Florida running back decommiting late in the cycle and the sting of losing in-state running back Jordan Marshall to his now-current employer in the 2024 class. 

In the interim, Alford knows all too well who OSU is high on for the 2025 cycle. And his relationships established with those prospects could be helpful in giving Michigan an edge with those players should the Wolverines choose to pursue any of those targets. Namely Davis, as the in-state prospect already had strong interest in Michigan before Alford’s defection. 

But the Ohio State brand and developmental track record has always done a good job of selling itself on its own throughout the years, regardless of who the coach is. Michigan (and plenty of other Power Five programs targeting OSU 2025 targets) may have an initial leg up in the relationship department, but the Buckeyes are capable of making up ground quickly with a strong hire.

View 90 Comments