Ohio State Still Unsure If Running Back Will Be By Committee in 2016, Though Tony Alford's Goal Is To Have One Lead Guy

By Eric Seger on March 31, 2016 at 12:46 pm
Tony Alford updated Ohio State's battle at running back Thursday after practice.

Tony Alford remains unsure who will break the huddle at running back for Ohio State in its season opener, and that's OK.

Could it be a situation where both Mike Weber and Bri'onte Dunn split carries with a bit of true freshman Antonio Williams thrown in? Possibly, but if the Buckeyes can zero in on one of the three being the lead at the position like Ezekiel Elliott was the last two seasons, they'll take that and hit the ground running.

"Will we get to that point? I don't know," Alford said Thursday after Ohio State's seventh practice of the spring. "I guess the question you're asking is if we'll do it by committee? I don't have that answer right now.

"If we need to, absolutely. We're going to do whatever it takes to win football games."

In 2015, a bulk of what Ohio State did to win football games was hand the ball to No. 15 and let him do what he does best with a strong offensive line. Elliott rushed for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns and led Ohio State to a 12-1 record, picking up the Silver Football in addition to Big Ten Running Back and Offensive Player of the Year Awards on the way.

Dunn is a fifth-year senior and Weber a redshirt freshman, and neither one of them is expected to be Elliott. But Alford — and by extension Urban Meyer — demand they be able to perform on all three downs like Elliott did.

“They're on scholarship too. It's their turn to play and they better step up and play. It's my job to get them ready. Those guys are hungry to play ball too. It is what it is. It's time to go.”– Tony Alford on the Ohio State running backs

"If you say 'well I'm only going to do this because I have another guy that can do this,' then we're in the wrong business," Alford said. "We're in the wrong room. You're in the wrong locker room."

Meyer said earlier in spring practice how he wishes for Dunn to take the first snap at running back against Bowling Green Sept. 3 because he's a senior. It's Dunn's last chance to leave an impression at running back at Ohio State, and he knows it.

But he also knows he has a pair of talented younger players in his position room with the same ambition to start Week 1.

"That should be every running back’s goal," Dunn said Thursday. "I’m trying to start, just like Mike is trying to start, just like Antonio is trying to start. That should be every running back’s goal."

Finding a guy — or two — with the right pieces and determination to step in and be a lead back for Elliott remains murky for Alford and company, but if it has to be more than one Ohio State is content with that.

Elliott is the highest ranked running back in the 2016 NFL Draft class and completed an assault on the Ohio State record book in just three seasons in Columbus. Dunn, Weber and Williams are not him, but it's now their time to do what they can to help Ohio State win football games.

"They're on scholarship too," Alford said. "It's their turn to play and they better step up and play. It's my job to get them ready. Those guys are hungry to play ball too. It is what it is. It's time to go."

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