Ohio State could get creative to fill RB depth

COLUMBUS — Ohio State football coach Ryan Day dropped a surprising nugget into his meeting with the media Tuesday.

With depth potentially an issue for the Buckeyes at running back this fall, Alabama transfer Caleb Downs could get some looks.

That was a little out of left field because Downs is already an accomplished safety, having been regarded as one of the top freshmen in the country last season for the Crimson Tide.

With All-Big Ten junior TreVeyon Henderson opting not to enter the NFL Draft and All-SEC sophomore Quinshon Judkins deciding to transfer to Ohio State from Mississippi, the Buckeyes will likely have the best running back duo in the country this fall.

Behind them on schlarship are just a pair of true freshmen — James Peoples and Sam Williams-Dixon — after three veteran running backs transferred out since the end of last season.

“We felt like coming out of the spring that James and Sam both did a nice job, we’re going to have to play them, and they’re going to have to take on a little bit of that,” Day said.

As for Downs seeing time at running back, the idea was apparently not new behind closed doors.

Day said it was discussed when the Buckeyes were recruiting him both out of high school and in the transfer portal in January.

“It’s something that he wanted to do, so we’ve been having him in some of the meetings and some of the individual drills as a possibility there if needed down the road to continue to build depth at that position,” Day said. “But I think we feel like if you have four strong running backs going into it, then that’s going to be enough to carry the season. I do think that the quarterbacks will run the ball more this season, so that should take some carries away from them, but James and Sam are going to have to step up to be guys that we can count on.”

Two-way players arise from time to time in college football, including cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter at Colorado last season and this coming season.

Ohio State had Chip Trayanum play both running back and linebacker two years ago when injuries depleted the former room, and defensive linemen Caden Curry and Kayden McDonald got a few snaps at fullback in goal-line packages last season.

More notably, Zach Boren flipped from fullback to linebacker in the middle of the 2012 season to solidify a struggling defense, and Chris Gamble played both ways full time for the 2002 national championship team before becoming an NFL first-round draft pick as a cornerback.

“We’ll see,” Day said. “We’ll see. We talked about the recruiting process the first time around and more specifically the second time around.

“He’s been around a little bit just to get a feel for it. We did very little in the spring. I think we pitched him an option or something like that in the spring just to kind of get him going.

“We’ll see where that goes. We don’t have a specific plan right now, but we do want to introduce him to that.”

Day also mentioned Lorenzo Styles Jr., who played receiver at Notre Dame for two seasons before transferring to Ohio State to play cornerback last year, also could get a look on either side of the ball this fall.

Ohio State is not hurting for talent at either spot, but there is more depth at cornerback the way things look at this point after in influx of young talent the last two years.

“He’s out there a little bit just kind of learning,” Day said. “It’s healthy. You’re seeing it from the other side of the ball. This time of year you can get away with that a little bit, a little bit in the preseason. Where it goes, we’ll see, but you just never know. We’re trying to put some contingency plans in place because it could be a long season.”

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