Ohio State “Gonna Do What We Think is Best to Win Every Game” in Deciding Whether to Redshirt Dallan Hayden

By Dan Hope on October 17, 2023 at 6:45 pm
Dallan Hayden vs. Purdue
Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Ohio State’s plan to redshirt Dallan Hayden this season is already being reevaluated just one week after Ryan Day revealed that plan publicly.

At the time, the logic behind redshirting Hayden seemed sound. He had played in only one of Ohio State’s first five games as the fourth-string running back behind TreVeyon Henderson, Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams, and it seemed unlikely that Hayden would see substantial playing time with the game on the line this season.

But when Henderson and Williams were both ruled out for last weekend’s game against Purdue, and Trayanum left the game in the first quarter with an injury of his own, the door suddenly opened for Hayden to play a major role. And with Hayden carrying the ball, Ohio State’s rushing offense looked more effective than it had in previous games as Hayden rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries.

That gives Ohio State reason to consider continuing to play Hayden regularly even when Henderson, Trayanum and Williams are healthy. And the Buckeyes are prepared to scrap their plan to redshirt Hayden if they determine adding him into the weekly rotation gives them a better chance to win.

“We're still gonna do what we think is best to win every game,” Day said Tuesday. “And it was great to see Dallan run out there and play well in the game (at Purdue). So when that decision has to be made, we'll make that decision. That decision doesn't have to be made right now, because we still have a little bit more wiggle room. But if it comes down to winning games, then certainly, we'll sit down with Dallan and make sure we're all on the same page. But I know Dallan wants to play and Dallan wants to do what's best for himself, but also for Ohio State.”

As Day said, Ohio State doesn’t have to make a decision this week on whether Hayden will redshirt this year. Because Hayden has played in only two games so far, he can still play in two more games this season and remain eligible to take a redshirt, which would preserve his three remaining years of eligibility after he did not take a redshirt last year as a true freshman.

What Ohio State does have to decide this week is what role Hayden will play in a game where the Buckeyes need their offense to be at its best against a Penn State defense that currently leads the nation with only 193.7 yards allowed per game.

Of course, that will at least partially depend on the availability of Henderson, Trayanum and Williams. Day declined to address the specific status of any injured players Tuesday, but said the plan would be for all of Ohio State’s running backs to get reps over the course of the week of practice, after which the Buckeyes will set their running back depth chart for the week.

“I think you take a look at how the week goes … you spread some of the reps around and then come up for air at the end of the week and figure out where guys are at, how they looked in practice,” Day said. “I think the guys who were out will still get just as many reps as well. I think you'll try to spread those around, and (running backs coach Tony Alford) always does a great job of that, which is why I think Dallan was ready to play in the game the way he did.”

Ohio State still seems to have concerns about Hayden as a pass protector, which was likely a factor in his minimal role to start the season. Day said after the Purdue game that there are “certainly some things in protection that we need to get better at” in reference to Hayden, and Day said Tuesday that he thinks Hayden is at his best “when the ball’s in his hand.” But the plays he made with the ball in his hand in West Lafayette still might have been enough to convince Ohio State that he needs to play more this year regardless of the other running backs’ health, especially considering some of the struggles the Buckeyes have had running the ball this season.

“I thought when the ball was in his hand, he did some really good things,” Day said. “I thought our O-line opened up some better holes, but Dallan ran hard as well. I thought once he got through the line of scrimmage, he got up to the safeties. And one run in particular, he really lowered his shoulder and ran the safety over. Which I think No. 31 (Dillon Thieneman) for Purdue’s a really good young safety. And he finished that run really well. So that was probably his best run. But you saw his feet move in the hole, and that was great, especially for someone who hasn't really played this year.

“The best thing that Dallan does is when the ball’s in his hand, and he does a nice job with that. I mean, there's certainly more to it than that. But we're happy with how he played on Saturday.”

While Day often mentioned ball security as a question mark when talking about Hayden last year, he said Tuesday that the Buckeyes are pleased with what they’ve seen from the sophomore running back in that regard, as he has not fumbled in his Ohio State career. And that gives Ohio State more reason to trust Hayden to play a bigger role in big games like the one coming up this Saturday against Penn State.

“The number one job of a running back is to take care of the ball. I think you can check that box for Dallan. So that's been great,” Day said. “And so yeah, the more opportunities he gets, the better he's going to be, so we'll see how this week shakes out.”

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