Even Pryor is bought in. All the way bought in.
“We know it's competitive every day, so first off, we start off by building a brotherhood first because we're brothers first,” Pryor said when asked in March about competing with the other Ohio State running backs. “We're going to share the field together. We obviously know it's competitive, but that's not something that is maybe spoken about every day. So we're just going to keep coming in every day making each other better and grinding.”
That’s the type of attitude Tony Alford has strived to foster within his position room, and it’s especially important for Pryor to feel that way. Because the only way the true freshman is getting on the field this fall is by competing. And more likely than not, he’ll have to wait his turn.
Pryor, who was a top-100 recruit and the sixth-best running back in his class, could have gone elsewhere and been the guy. Heck, considering he's the second-highest rated running back recruit on the team's roster right now, most years he would be the guy at Ohio State if he signed to play college football in Columbus. But not this year. This year, he came in with TreVeyon Henderson, fully understanding that he’s entering a room already containing Master Teague, Miyan Williams and Marcus Crowley and that he could have chosen someplace else with a significantly higher chance that he’d see the field early in his career.
He’s fine with that, and based on what both he and Alford have said, he embraces it.
Pryor, a North Carolina native, committed to Ohio State on March 16, 2020. Eleven days later, Henderson committed. Nine months later, they both signed with the Buckeyes.
“Evan committed first, and he helped recruit Trey,” Alford said in the spring. “Those guys helped recruit one another, and they were talking all the time. So when you thrust them into a room together, they’re already friends.”
Partly given the presence of Henderson, but also partly due to some others at the position, Pryor will likely have to wait his turn. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him open his freshman season fifth on the depth chart at tailback, behind some order of Teague, Williams, Henderson and Crowley.
But it’s worth keeping in mind what Pryor will bring whenever he makes his way up the depth chart, because Ohio State welcomed him knowing he can be a legitimate asset down the line if he develops the way they hope.
He’s a 5-foot-10, 197-pound running back whose time at William Amos Hough High School in a suburb of Charlotte earned him offers from just about all the prominent programs in college football – Alabama, Florida, LSU, USC, Oregon, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Penn State among them. As a junior in high school, he rushed for 1,130 yards and 11 touchdowns and accounted for 646 receiving yards with eight scores through the air. The following spring, he clocked a 10.84-second 100-meter dash. He proved that he’s both speedy with the ball in his hands and able to offer a different element as a proven pass-catcher.
“Evan's a little bit more of a hybrid – not that Trey can't do a lot of the same things,” Ryan Day said in December on the day Pryor signed his National Letter of Intent. “But he can do a lot of things in space. He's really good as a running back. He can get out on some jet sweeps. He can catch bubbles. He can get the ball on the perimeter and catch it. Trey's a little bit more of an every-down back.”
Asked to describe what he provides Ohio State earlier this year, he said he believes that his “ability to make plays in space” and his “route-running” is what can give him an edge right off the bat.
But there’s one aspect of his game he likes the most.
“My best attribute as a runner (is) definitely to hit the home run. I feel like from anywhere on the field, I can go to the end zone.”
At some point, Ohio State will look to him to do just that.
Maybe it’s not in Week 1. Maybe it’s not in the year 2021. But eventually, the Buckeyes will put the ball in Pryor’s hands and find out exactly what he can do for them – and whether or not he can be their Barry Bonds.