Presser Bullets: Tony Alford, Trey Sermon and Master Teague Discuss Ohio State's Running Back Competition, Preparation for Season

By Dan Hope on October 6, 2020 at 1:50 pm

Tuesday was running back day for Ohio State's preseason position-by-position media interviews.

Graduate transfer running back Trey Sermon met with the media for the first time as a Buckeye. Master Teague, the running back he's battling for the top spot on the depth chart, also participated in a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, as did Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford.

The bullet-point recap of what each of them had to say:

Tony Alford, Running Backs Coach

  • Alford said Teague “never wavered” in his faith during his recovery from his Achilles injury. He said Teague “completely immersed himself” in his rehabilitation. Teague stayed in his apartment in Columbus by himself, while most of the rest of the team went home when campus was shut down, so that he could continue rehabbing on campus.
  • Teague and Sermon are both “longer-bodied“ running backs, which helps them in pass protection, he said.
  • Alford said he has been working with Sermon on dropping his pad level. “He's kind of a longer-strider guy,” Alford said, but he has deceptive speed.
  • On walk-on running back Xavier Johnson: “He's had an outstanding month-and-a-half ... He's a guy that's littered all over the special teams.” Said Johnson, who has also spent time at defensive back and receiver, is a “team guy” who is “extremely mature.”
  • “Steele Chambers has had a really good growth-spurt in terms of his maturity in our offense.” Chambers is a “perfectionist by nature,” which can be both good and bad, Alford said. “I'll be comfortable putting him in the game as well.”
  • Alford said he thinks Ezekiel Elliott and J.K. Dobbins set a good example for the running backs room on the work ethic and all the different aspects it takes to be a great running back at Ohio State.
  • Was he surprised that Teague is ready to come back from his Achilles injury sooner than Marcus Crowley is ready to come back from his torn ACL? “Yes. I'd be lying if I said anything different.” Reiterated that he's not a doctor, but he's surprised and happy that Teague is ready to contribute this season.
  • Alford said Marcus Crowley had a “minor setback“ in his recovery from his torn ACL, but he's working his way back now. Doesn't know when he'll be ready to play, though. “Mentally, he's fine. He understands where he's at ... It is what it is.”
  • On Teague's readiness to play this season: “I'm extremely confident and comfortable that he'll be up to the task.” He said the Buckeyes are “continuing to build his workload,” but “if we played tomorrow, he would play.”
  • Alford said Sermon would come to his house during the offseason – “socially distanced, of course” – to work on learning the playbook before they were able to return to practices.
  • Alford said the Buckeyes studied all of Sermon's film from Oklahoma, from his freshman year to last year, before they made the decision to bring him in as a graduate transfer. “I knew him because I recruited him, but we talked to a lot of the guys from Oklahoma, and they had nothing about rave reviews about the way he prepared.”
  • Alford joked about Miyan Williams: “Miyan's about two-and-a-half feet tall.” More seriously, Alford praised Williams' toughness and strength, and said his lack of height can actually be an advantage because it's harder for the defenders to see him. He said Williams isn't talkative, but he works hard.
  • Alford said he had a lot of conversations with Sermon and his mother during the uncertainty of whether the Buckeyes would get to play this year, but Sermon is a positive person by nature, and he was great throughout the process even though he was frustrated that the Buckeyes might not get to play this fall.
  • Alford said Teague is probably the player leader in the running back room right now, but Johnson has also emerged as a leader and Sermon is coming along in that regard too as he spends more and more time around the team.
  • On Pete Werner: “He's a great leader in our locker room and for our football team.”
  • Alford said he did opt in to the voluntary 5% pay cut for coaches.
  • On overcoming the challenges of this offseason: “I think that we have a good enough football team that if we take care of the little things ... we should be fine.”
  • Like just about everyone else who's been asked this offseason, Alford said Justin Fields' leadership is the biggest thing that's stood out about the Ohio State quarterback going into this season. “Really, really proud of the young man that Justin's developed into in his time here.”
  • Alford said it isn't unusual for him to continue a relationship with a player he recruits even after they sign with another school. Alford had a positive relationship with Sermon dating back to when he recruited Sermon in high school, which helped lead to Sermon's transfer to Ohio State this year.

Master Teague, Running Back

  • Teague said he had to be disciplined doing his rehab on his own while most of the team was away from campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but “it was another chance for me to grow as a man, as a person, as a player.”
  • On Sermon: “I think he's going to be a great complement to the room.”
  • Teague on how he felt when the injury happened: “I knew something was wrong, I knew something was up ... I couldn't quite put a name to it, but I knew it wasn't good.”
  • Teague said while he hates that the COVID-19 pandemic has happened and so many people have lost their lives, the later start to the season worked in his favor because it gave him more time to recover and get ready for the start of the season. Teague said he thinks he would have been able to play in September, but it helped that he didn't end up missing the spring practices and summer workouts that he would have under normal circumstances.
  • Teague said he thinks he is going to be a “way better player” this year than he was last year. “I wasn't my full self as a running back, even though I did decent” last year. With his injury, he's tried to rebuild himself in a different way, and he believes he'll have more agility.
  • On his dad Corey, who was one of the parents who was vocal about the Buckeyes being able to play this season: “If he thinks something is off, he's going to attack it. He's going to try to make it right. So definitely a good example for me.”
  • On his struggles in the loss to Clemson: “That definitely wasn't a performance that I want to have.” He wants to prove this year that he can step up when the Buckeyes need him in big games.

Trey Sermon, Running Back

  • Why did he choose to transfer to Ohio State? “I just fell in love with the culture here.”
  • On his health right now: “This is the best I've ever felt in my entire career.”
  • On learning to run lower, Sermon said that's been one of the focus points for him in practice. “It's been going pretty good.”
  • Sermon said the offensive system at Ohio State is similar to Oklahoma. “They're both great programs. There's not really too many differences. The coaching staff is great, they both play at a really high level.”
  • Sermon said he's still enjoyed watching his former teammates at Oklahoma play even though Ohio State hasn't gotten to play yet.
  • On fellow Georgia native Justin Fields: “I've known Justin for quite some time, I played against him in high school ... so obviously being on the same team, it's a different experience, but I've enjoyed it. How he commands the offense, and his leadership, is just great.”
  • On Ryan Day and Lincoln Riley: “They're both great guys. They're very intelligent ... They're great at what they do ... Just being able to experience both, I'm definitely grateful for it.”
  • Sermon said Justin Fields is more similar to Kyler Murray than Baker Mayfield, both of whom he played alongside at Oklahoma.
  • On his relationship with Tony Alford: “We just established a great relationship when he recruited me out of high school.” Said Alford continued to check in with him occasionally even when he was at Oklahoma. “Coach Alford's such a genuine guy, and all the players he comes in contact with, he really cares about them.” He said Alford's relationship with him was unique among coaches from other schools that recruited him.
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