Ohio State's Offense Seeks Reliability from Tailbacks TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams

By Chris Lauderback on January 22, 2023 at 10:10 am
Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson

The 2022 season was largely a letdown for Ohio State's top two tailbacks, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams. 

Henderson entered the season as a dark horse Heisman candidate after running for 1,248 yards on 6.8 per attempt with 15 touchdowns as a true freshman in 2021. For his part, Williams stood as one of the elite backups in the country, having averaged 7.2 yards per carry across 71 carries in 10 appearances. 

Expectations last fall included Henderson and Williams serving as the best 1-2 tailback punch in the country in support of a Heisman caliber quarterback in C.J. Stroud and a receiving corps featuring Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka. 

Unfortunately, Ohio State was bit by the injury bug early and often with Smith-Njigba playing just 15 snaps in the opener versus Notre Dame. He would appear in just two more games before shutting it down for the season. 

With JSN out of the mix, misfortune then found the running back room with Henderson and Williams rarely healthy at the same throughout the season. 

When the dust settled on the 2022 season, Henderson and Williams were both healthy at the same time for just four of 13 contests. Four of 13. Ohio State played seven games with at least one of the duo unable to log even one snap. 

Henderson of course logged the most time on the shelf, missing five games entirely while playing hurt and/or forced to leave early in two other contests. After seeing 507 snaps as a true freshman in 2021, Henderson was on the field for 226 fewer plays last season mostly thanks to an ankle injury that eventually required December surgery. 

Williams battled a few different injuries on the way to logging two Did Not Plays and being limited and/or forced to leave three other games. An ankle injury cost Williams the Maryland game and saw him severely limited against Michigan and Georgia. 

NOTRE DAME 35 / 172 4.91 14 / 84 6.00 15 / 91 6.07 29 / 175 6.03
ARK ST 26 / 168 6.46 8 / 46 5.75 10 / 87 8.70 18 / 133 7.39
TOLEDO 44 / 281 6.45 10 / 77 7.70 4 / 19 4.75 14 / 96 6.86
WISCONSIN 43 / 258 6.00 11 / 101 9.19 21 / 121 5.76 32 / 222 6.94
RUTGERS 34 / 252 7.41 21 / 189 9.00 DNP DNP 21 / 189 9.00
@MICH ST 46 / 237 5.15 DNP DNP 19 / 118 6.21 19 / 118 6.21
IOWA 30 / 66 2.20 10 / 19 1.90 11 / 38 3.45 21 / 57 2.71
@PENN ST 26 / 98 3.77 2 / 9 4.50 16 / 78 4.89 18 / 87 4.83
@NWESTERN 35 / 207 5.91 26 / 111 4.27 DNP DNP 26 / 111 4.27
INDIANA 43 / 340 7.91 15 / 147 9.80 DNP DNP 15 / 147 9.80
@MARYLAND 43 / 160 3.72 DNP DNP 11 / 19 1.73 11 / 19 1.73
MICHIGAN 29 / 143 4.83 8 / 34 4.25 DNP DNP 8 / 34 4.25
GEORGIA 32 / 119 3.72 3 / 8 2.67 DNP DNP 3 / 8 2.67

Speaking of the final three games of the season - at Maryland, Michigan and Georgia - the duo contributed just 22 carries for 61 yards, good for 2.77 per try. That meant the overall rushing attack suffered, averaging just 141 yards per game on 4.06 per attempt. In the previous 10 games, Ohio State averaged 208 rushing yards per contest on 5.74 per carry even with Henderson and Williams nursing injuries to that point. 

Thinking back to happier times - during those four games when both Henderson and Williams played and neither departed early with injury - the duo lit it up in three. 

In the opener versus the Fighting Irish, they combined to rush for 175 yards on 6.03 per carry. The following week, they averaged 7.39 yards per attempt (18 for 133) as the Buckeyes leaned on the passing game to torch Arkansas State. Two weeks later in the B1G opener versus Wisconsin, Henderson and Williams combined to have their best game of the season cranking out 222 rushing yards on 6.94 a pop in a 52-21 victory. 

The fourth game, against a stout Iowa defense, was a different story however as the duo ran for just 57 yards on 21 tries. Of course heading into that contest Williams didn't play the week prior against Michigan State and Henderson left early, after missing the previous week against Rutgers entirely.

Bottom line, it was a season filled with more frustration than success for the two talented backs due to persistent injuries. The good news is both will be back next season and at least as it relates to the maladies that plagued them in 2022, those should be distant memories as the team prepares for another run at a Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff bid.

Should something go wrong, Ohio State will also have a seasoned Dallan Hayden after he looked solid for the Buckeyes down the stretch as a true freshman. Buckeye fans aren't forgetting about Evan Pryor either after the shifty back blew up in last year's spring game but fell victim to a serious knee injury in fall camp, costing him the 2022 season. 

With head coach Ryan Day now focused on replacing quarterback C.J. Stroud with a first year starter in either Kyle McCord or Devin Brown, while also replacing three starters on the offensive line, having Henderson and Williams return to healthy form would be a much needed security blanket for the offense. 

For Henderson specifically, that could mean more than just running the football. He proved a dangerous receiving weapon out of the backfield in 2021, catching 27 balls for 312 yards and four scores. Last season however, he caught only four passes for 28 yards with one touchdown. As you'll recall, 21 of those yards came on the touchdown catch versus Maryland in what was his last action of the year. Will new offensive coordinator Brian Hartline and Day look to get him more involved in the passing game next year? Doesn't seem like a bad idea to me. Either way, scheming and blocking to get him to the second level where he can make people miss or simply outrun them is a formula Day would like to get back to. 

With Williams, particularly behind a green offensive line, it seems logical the braintrust will ask him to gain the tough yards between the tackles, take what's there and fall forward after contact, in addition getting him to the edge where he has shown a knack for making people miss. Though Henderson is the more highly regarded pro prospect, Williams has averaged slightly more yards per carry since both have been on campus, 6.70 to 6.27. 

Again though, fleshing out exactly how to deploy the two can only happen if both are healthy and that is Job One for Ohio State as it approaches the 2023 campaign. 

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