Year in and year out, some freshmen just stand out more than others. And that was certainly the case for Dawand Jones a season ago.
The 6-foot-8, 360-pound offensive tackle arrived at Ohio State as the lowest-ranked member of the Buckeyes' 2019 recruiting class. Rated the No. 1,043 prospect in the country, most projected Jones to be a long-term project for Ryan Day and the coaching staff. His enormous frame needed to be worked into shape before he saw any legitimate time on the field.
But that didn't turn out to be the case. Jones worked his way up the depth chart and became a go-to reserve offensive tackle. And even when he was playing in mop-up duty, he stood out on the field and made plays. His most notable moment came when he essentially erased Northwestern's defensive line on a 73-yard Master Teague touchdown run.
Jones morphed from a long-term project into an immediate contributor, appearing in 10 games and avoiding the redshirt most thought he was destined for. He also became a team and fan favorite in the process.
Ohio State's 2020 freshmen reported to campus this month for voluntary workouts, and without the benefit of a full slate of spring practices for the early enrollees, all the first-year players (whether they enrolled early or arrived in June) are starting on relatively equal footing.
Every freshman is looking for an opportunity to climb the depth chart and earn playing time this fall, and an under-the-radar player in running back Miyan Williams is hoping to find the same avenue to the field as Jones did in 2019.
Williams, like Jones, wasn't a highly-rated recruit in high school. The Cincinnati, Ohio native checked in at No. 625 nationally and the 45th-rated running back. He flipped from Iowa State to the Buckeyes after a late scholarship offer came his way when running backs coach Tony Alford missed on a number of his top targets.
But Williams could prove to be a diamond in the rough for Ohio State. Between the time he played his last snap of high school football to when he reported to Columbus to begin his collegiate career, Williams underwent a remarkable body transformation.
Miyan Williams in April 2019 vs. Miyan Williams in June 2020 pic.twitter.com/XQEXRhdcyh— Zack Carpenter (@Zack_Carp) June 8, 2020
Eleven Warriors' own Zack Carpenter detailed the grueling overhaul Williams went through this offseason. From a nutritional makeover to grueling workouts, the overlooked running back wanted to come to Ohio State with some momentum.
“He was trying to get better in the offseason, and he came in ready to work," Trammell Williams, Miyan's personal trainer in Cincinnati, told Eleven Warriors. "He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever worked with. He was asking, ‘Coach, when can I come back?’ Most kids are like, ‘Shit, all right. I’ll let y’all know ‘cause that shit was hard.’ It wasn’t easy. But he’s got a great work ethic. It’s unmatched.”
That work ethic could pay off enormously this fall. Ohio State's running back room was one of the biggest question marks on the team at one point this offseason. After the departure of J.K. Dobbins to the NFL, Master Teague was expected to step into the starting role until he suffered an Achilles injury in March. Backup Marcus Crowley was still rehabbing a torn ACL, leaving Steele Chambers as the lone healthy scholarship running back on the team.
Ohio State struck gold once again on the transfer front when former Oklahoma running back Trey Sermon, who has immediate eligibility this fall, announced his intentions to join the Buckeyes.
But the injuries to Teague and Crowley open the door for Williams. The Buckeyes could opt to rotate more ball-carriers into the game with Dobbins' departure, and with the work Williams put in this offseason, he could certainly factor into those plans.