Heading into fall camp, Ohio State’s stable of running backs figured to offer the Buckeyes a variety of options to put on the field this season.
Master Teague’s return is set to give running backs coach Tony Alford a veteran presence to lean on, and five-star freshman TreVeyon Henderson has been on almost everyone’s shortlist of immediate impact freshmen to watch in 2021.
But while Teague and Henderson will certainly factor into Ohio State’s offensive game plans this season, it just might be an unheralded redshirt freshman from Cincinnati seeing the bulk of the carries when the Buckeyes take on Minnesota next week.
To the surprise of many, Miyan Williams led the running backs through many of the position drills during the early stages of camp. Although the coaches insisted there was nothing to read into in that regard, it did offer some insight into just how highly Williams has elevated himself since seeing just 10 carries as a true freshman a season ago. Whether or not he does, indeed, start next week remains to be seen, but as camp has progressed, Williams has done nothing to hurt his stock.
Asked what has impressed him the most about Williams, Alford said last week, “Just the way he prepares. He prepares like a pro. He doesn’t get flustered, never too high or too low … He’s an even-keel guy who brings great energy every day. He’s very serious about this game and doesn’t make very many mistakes.”
After coming into his first college season at 5-foot-8, 233 lbs., Williams has done himself a favor this offseason by shedding nearly 10 pounds, which in turn has increased his abilities on the field. Alford said Williams’ weight loss over the offseason has helped with his lateral quickness, bursts of speed, and stamina, while also speaking volumes for Wiliams’ level of buy-in to becoming a better running back.
“Miyan is doing and has done the things that are necessary to get his body and his mind right to play,” Alford said.
A late addition — and thought by some to be a contingency plan — in Ohio State’s 2020 recruiting class, Williams began to make a name for himself in last season’s Sugar Bowl win over Clemson. It was in that College Football Playoff semifinal that Williams made highlight reels everywhere by running over Clemson safety Nolan Turner, giving Williams his first taste of what it’s like to be a playmaker on the game’s biggest stage.
“It just felt like practice, to be honest. But it was a big play because it was late in the playoffs, and a freshman coming in and making a big play in a big game. It was kind of cool to experience,” Williams said of the moment.
The run offered a glimpse into the edge with which Williams plays the game, an edge that is sparked by and large by those who doubted his ability to play at the highest level of college football.
“Coming in, I felt like I was overlooked a lot. I just felt like I had a point to prove and now I gotta prove it,” Williams said of the chip on his shoulder.
Williams said he has added “a lot more speed and wiggle” than he possessed last year, thanks mostly to the offseason weight loss he attributes primarily to a change in diet. The diet change has included cutting out all red meats and eating only chicken, Williams said. As a result, he said he now feels “lighter and looser” than he ever has on the field.
Like any freshman, Williams said the game was much faster than he anticipated a season ago when he was simply trying to stay afloat in a new world. Now in his second year in the offense, and with a much better understanding of the playbook, Williams said the game is beginning to slow down for him, allowing him to play faster as a result.
While it’s clear Williams is doing everything possible to put himself in a position to factor heavily into Ohio State’s plans this season, the man teammates call “porkchop” isn’t concerning himself with who’s leading preseason practice drills or who might take the field first at Minnesota.
“I mean, it’s cool. I don’t really try to worry about that too much,” Williams said. “I just try to focus on getting better and getting my teammates better.”
Williams later added, “I just tell myself to keep working. Come in here and put in the work every day like everybody else does.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.