Ohio State runs back to show depth against Maryland

When running back Dallan Hayden drafted as a freshman at Ohio State in June, little did he imagine that he could be the starter in a November Big Ten game.

The Buckeyes had TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams and Evan Pryor ahead on the depth chart. Newcomers to the fourth string are usually destined to play at the end of blowouts, if at all.

But if No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten) plays in Maryland (6-4, 3-4) Saturday, Hayden could be the Buckeye starter.

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Pryor suffered a knee injury in training camp at the end of the season. Henderson spent last week’s win over Indiana on the sidelines in hiking boots. Williams also had a walking boot and crutches in the second half after an injury sidelined him in the second quarter.

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Even Chip Trayanum, who recently switched from linebacker to running back, was unavailable last week. Trayanum has been relocated because impressive walk-on TC Caffey is out for the year.

Coach Ryan Day expressed optimism earlier in the week that at least one and likely two from Henderson, Williams and Trayanum would be available against Maryland. But that hope should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s common this year for players who aren’t even featured on the team’s status report to see no action.

The Buckeyes were fortunate to have the depth to resist injury, not just running back. Josh Fryar, for example, played skillfully in a real tackle for Dawand Jones last week.

“It’s very important,” Day said. “If you play nine conference games and your non-conference includes Notre Dame, that’s 10 games you need to bring it at.

“You have to have that depth, especially when you go into the back end of the season. You can see that in the development that has taken place and now we have to rely on that. We’re looking forward to bringing some guys back, but playing in November is part of the game.”

Dallan Hayden was preparing to be Ohio State’s running back if needed

Hayden believes he’s ready when he has to shoulder most of the burden, even if the circumstances are far from ideal

“Miyan had a great game,” he said, referring to the 147 yards Williams gained. “I hate to see that. It was crazy at first, but I feel like as the game went on I did better. I was mentally ready to go.”

Hayden finished for 102 yards on 19 carries, including a 14-yard touchdown run that showed his innate vision.

Hayden enrolled in June, not January, so he had to catch up on learning the playbook. Even with hard study, it took until mid-August before he felt comfortable with the offensive.

By this point, Hayden had already impressed his teammates with his work ethic and punching power.

“Dallan, he’s a grown man,” said receiver Xavier Johnson, who had a 71-yard touchdown streak last week when he was used as an emergency running back. “He comes to work every day. He doesn’t like making mistakes. He’s very hard on himself.

“I think that allows someone to be ready when their number is called. It’s not something that happens by accident. He’s not out there just running around. He knows what he is doing. He is confident.”

Ohio State Football vs. Maryland

Ohio State will travel to College Park for the first time since 2018. That game, a 52-51 overtime run, was the only game against the Terrapins to be competitive since they joined the Big Ten in 2014.

This year, Maryland started strong but lost its last two games, including a 30-0 loss to Penn State last week. Taulia Tagovailoa is a talented double threat quarterback, though injuries have hampered his performance lately. If Maryland, a four-touchdown underdog, is going to pose any kind of angry threat, he’s got to have a big game.

“They present a pretty big challenge,” said Ohio State linebacker Steele Chambers. “Their offense looks like they’re trying to get you out of your loopholes and make you not really be sensible about what you’re doing.

“But I think we’re up to the challenge. I think we’ve seen teams play like them, so I think we’re pretty prepared for that kind of offense.

Certainly Ohio State’s current defenses are far better than the ones Maryland exploited in 2018. The Buckeyes won only because of a faulty Terrapins pass on a two-point conversion in overtime.

“We barely got out of there,” Day said. “Not exactly a great memory.”

With the Michigan showdown looming next week, the last thing Ohio State wants is a bogeyman against Maryland. Odds are, they won’t.

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