TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams will attempt to work their way back to full strength this week as the Buckeyes prepare for The Game.
Still, head coach Ryan Day acknowledged in a press conference on Tuesday that his top-two running backs might not enter Ohio State's matchup with Michigan at 100%. That leaves many to wonder if true freshman Dallan Hayden's combination of health and productivity over the last two weeks makes him the best option out of the backfield for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
"It's definitely worth a conversation," Day said. "When you put it on film, and the film speaks for itself, you have to have that conversation – in this moment – who is the best guy to put on the field."
Henderson made his first appearance in the Maryland game after missing the previous two Ohio State contests with a foot injury. However, the second-year Buckeye appeared to be afflicted with lingering pain from the ailment and played only 28 snaps in the contest, rushing for 19 yards on 11 carries while adding a 31-yard reception for a touchdown before Hayden took over duties as the lead ball carrier. Hayden finished the game with 27 carries for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Williams did not travel with the program to College Park for the team's battle with the Terrapins after exiting the Indiana game with a lower-body injury. Before being ruled out of the Nov. 12 contest, Williams was on the field for 30 of Ohio State's 39 offensive snaps, running for 147 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Hayden toted the rock 19 times for 102 yards and a score in Williams' absence.
Later in Tuesday's press conference, Day claimed the plan is for Henderson and Williams to practice this week and said he would prefer they work directly with their teammates in the days leading up to the Michigan game instead of taking mental reps. Still, Day said Henderson and Williams' availability for Saturday won't necessarily be contingent on how much they practice.
“We’d like for them to practice and plan on them practicing,” Day said. “If they miss here or there to get healthy to play in the game, we’ll adjust accordingly. These are veteran football players.”
When asked if Hayden was "starter caliber," Day said it is "hard to say" at this moment, recognizing that Michigan is a more challenging opponent than any Ohio State has faced to this point in the season.
While Day didn't reveal his confidence in Hayden as a starter against the Wolverines, he did compliment the first-year Buckeye for his efforts in recent weeks during practices and games. Day said Hayden's been a boost to the Ohio State offense and expects him to be ready for anything the coaching staff asks him to do on Saturday.
“To see the way he stepped up last week was tremendous and encouraging as we move into this rivalry week,” Day said. “It was great to see him taking care of the football. He has to have a good week of practice now and prepare hard to play in this game.”