Oregon Week Mic Check: The Fight For Carries at Running Back Intensifies

By Chris Lauderback on September 8, 2021 at 3:05 pm
Miyan Williams
Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch-Imagn Content Services, LLC

In the season opener, Ohio State's defense used 24 players despite missing three starters while four running backs saw action behind C.J. Stroud. 

Clearly, Ryan Day and company felt a need to give players an opportunity at gaining some early experience both for their own good and for the staff to further determine which players will receive the bulk of time as the number of guys playing meaningful snaps inevitably decreases. 

That shortening of the bench will more than likely begin this weekend, and not just on defense, as the No. 3 Buckeyes welcome No. 11 Oregon to town for a nooner in the Shoe. 

At tailback, redshirt sophomore Miyan Williams made his first career start and did not disappoint with nine carries for 125 yards including a 71-yard touchdown to open the scoring in what became a 45-31 victory. 

Veteran Master Teague received nine carries and went for 29 yards while freshman TreVeyon Henderson recorded two attempts for 15 yards and added a 70-yard touchdown via a screen pass giving Ohio State a 38-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter. 

Marcus Crowley logged six attempts for 19 yards in mop up duty as the Buckeyes ran out the clock. 

With Williams and Henderson providing the excitement despite what felt like limited opportunities, many fans are clamoring for the duo to receive more snaps, frankly at the expense of the very experienced Teague. 

Day realizes what he has at tailback even as Miyan and TreVeyon logged a modest 12 touches in the opener. He said as much in Tuesday's presser: 

It's not a lot of plays. They (Williams and Henderson) made some plays and did a good job and did what they were supposed to do but it's hard JUST over a handful of plays to make some hard decisions. but we're gonna do that and try to figure out what's best to win the game. - RYAN DAY

I'll admit, after the Minnesota game, I was a little miffed that Williams only received nine carries, Teague logged six and Henderson just two but the reality is it was an odd game in a lot of ways, most notably that the Buckeyes scored 45 points on just 48 plays. 

Yes, Williams had only nine carries but he was the tailback on the field for six of Ohio State's nine drives if you exclude the final possession in which Crowley ran out the clock with the game in hand. 

Meanwhile, Henderson was the tailback for two possessions and his touches were limited due to the first series ending in a Stroud interception on the fourth play and then his second series lasted only three plays as Henderson himself recorded the noted 70-yard touchdown catch and run.

Teague only played one series, he just happened to get the ball six times during a 14-play drive that resulted in a field goal. 

So really, even as the order of appearance in the game went Williams, Teague, Henderson, it sure feels like Williams is the clear No. 1 with Henderson behind him and then Teague. 

Williams is averaging 6.6 yards per carry across spot duty in four games last year plus his tally versus Minnesota last week (combined 19 for 189) and it feels like his likelihood of hitting a home run is similar to that of Henderson. 

Henderson's sample size is obviously miniscule but his pedigree as a legit five-star combined with what he did with his three touches versus the Gophers seems to line up with what we all saw in the spring game and what we'd heard he was doing in practice. 

Meanwhile, Teague averaged 4.8 yards per carry in the opener, went for 4.9 yards per carry over 104 attempts last season, and his career yards per carry stands at 5.5 over 262 attempts with his yards per carry decreasing each season (though it should obviously be noted 2018 and 2021 year-to-date are small samples). That said, there's no reason to think Teague can't have a specialized role on this team. He's a leader, a great teammate and a solid short yardage option. Honestly though, it's hard to envision him carrying it more than Williams or Henderson as the season wears on provided everyone's healthy and holding on to the football. 

That said, there's still a ton of football to be played and how the distribution of carries continues to evolve will be an interesting story within the story of the 2021 season. 

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