Evan Pryor is a very talented running back. He’s also a very talented running back who appears to be stuck behind two other very talented running backs. This leads to the question: is there a role in the Ohio State football team’s offense for Pryor?
Ahead of Pryor in the OSU backfield are ultra-talented TreVeyon Henderson, who ran for over 1200 yards last season as a true freshman, and the powerful Miyan Williams, who chipped in over 500 yards in just ten games. Both averaged just about seven yards per carry. When you also throw in a combined 36 catches between them, you really begin to wonder just where Pryor can fit in.
One area where Pryor could help the offense is in the passing game. He has good hands and is adept at running routes. Last season, the Buckeyes used Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of the backfield at times. Pryor could be used in much the same way and his presence will put more pressure on a defense. Everyone knew the ball was not going to be handed off to Smith-Njigba, but that obviously wouldn’t be the case with Pryor.
He would give the offense more of a JK Dobbins feel in those situations. Dobbins would often line up in the backfield before shifting out wide. More often than not, this created a mismatch in coverage, because defenses had to use a linebacker to cover him. Pryor could create those same types of mismatches.
The North Carolina native came to the Ohio State football program as the nation’s number six running back in the same recruiting class as Henderson. Pryor appeared in only four games last season and was able to preserve his redshirt.
He looks to be much better suited physically to the rigors of being a running back at a Power 5 school. In the off-season, he gained ten pounds and is now up to 202. Pryor had a very good spring game rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown and catching four passes for another 44 yards (watch his performance here). Ryan Day was very pleased with what he saw,
“He can change direction in short areas. He’s good out of the backfield. He catches the ball. And so he gives us a little wiggle in there, which is nice. It’s a little bit of a change of pace with the offense. If he continues to grow and he can hang onto the ball, then he’s going to have an impact on this offense this year.”
Will hanging onto the ball be the determining factor in how big of a role Pryor has in the offense? Day including that in his assessment of his young running back kind of throws up a red flag for me. Did Pryor have fumbling problems during spring practice?
I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I think it is fair to assume that may have been the case. If a running back can’t hold onto the ball, he isn’t going to play. That’s all there is to it. If Pryor is having this issue hopefully he can get it corrected, because I think he can add another dimension to this already potent Buckeye offense.
Although I think there is a role for Evan Pryor, it is going to be up to him to carve it out. He needs to make the most of his opportunities and hang onto the football. If he can do that, I think he’ll make an impact.