Welcome to a new series here at Land-Grant Holy Land — Freshman Focus. Spring practice is officially underway, and this year’s crop of Buckeyes is already hard at work preparing for the 2021 campaign. That being the case, now is a great time to introduce you to Ohio State’s incredibly talented freshman class. Each edition of Freshman Focus will highlight one of the newest Buckeyes, and will hopefully provide a glimpse at what they will bring to the team in the coming years.
Today’s freshman: Evan Pryor.
Ending up in Columbus by way of North Carolina, Evan Pryor committed to Ohio State as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2021 class and the No. 82 player in the country overall. Joining TreVeyon Henderson, the duo gives the Buckeyes a pair of top-100 running backs to add to the mix. Tony Alford did a phenomenal job in this cycle, as he found two highly-rated and highly-motivated backs with different skillsets who both are eager to compete in a crowded but wide open room.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound ball-carrier hauled in over 35 offers during the recruiting process, getting looks from nearly all of the nation’s premier programs including Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, UNC, Wisconsin and many more. Pryor cut things down to a final six schools back in February of 2020, which was comprised of Georgia, Oklahoma, Penn State, UNC, USC and of course Ohio State. While the Buckeyes were thought to have the lead for the majority of the process, the final decision did seem to come down to them or the in-state Tar Heels. However, on March 16 of last year he committed to Ohio State, and he made it official when he signed his name on the dotted line in December.
Like his fellow running back Henderson, Pryor did not get a chance to play his senior season after North Carolina moved high school football to the spring because of COVID-19. However, he was still able to put up some very impressive numbers in his three years at William Amos Hough. In total, Pryor finished his high school career with over 4,000 all-purpose yards, including a standout junior season that saw him rush for over 1,100 yards and 11 TDs with another 646 yards and eight TDs receiving. In total, Pryor scored 42 career TDs for the Huskies, with 24 coming on the ground and 18 through the air.
In addition to being a dual-threat out of the backfield on the gridiron, Pryor showcased his impressive speed as a track star. He registered a personal-best 10.84 seconds in the 100 meter event, which condensed down to a 40-yard dash would be blazing 4.3 speed. All of this was good enough to make Pryor the No. 4 player in North Carolina and the state’s second-best all-purpose back. His highlight tape from his junior season will more than back up those rankings:
Pryor is a rare breed of elite prospect to make the move from North Carolina to Ohio State. The Buckeyes have hauled in exactly one player from the Tar Heel State in each of the past three recruiting classes, landing three-star defensive tackle Jaden McKenzie in 2019 and four-star DT Jacolbe Cowan in 2020, and while these two could turn out to be fine players, nobody has come to Columbus from that region with quite the level of prestige and expectations as Pryor.
As an all-purpose back, Pryor’s skillset is different to that of Henderson’s, which could make them a lethal 1-2 combo down the road. While Henderson projects more as an every down runner, Pryor would be perfect as a third-down RB as he is excellent at catching passes out of the backfield. Drawing comparisons to New England Patriots back Damien Harris, this is what 247Sports national writer Charles Power had to say in his scouting report of Pryor:
“Has a compact build that has begun to fill out late in his high school career. Has the frame to carry over 210 pounds at the college level. Has shown very good speed on the track with track verified 100 meter times in the 10.8 second range entering his junior season. Is a loose runner with a natural gait and body lean. Has the ability to change directions without losing much speed and shows high-level lateral agility. Looks like one of the better pass-catching running backs in the 2021 cycle. Productive and skilled in the pass game on Friday nights and in the 7-on-7 setting. Will need to keep showing high-level production consistency as a runner on a snap to snap basis. Projects as a multi-year starter at the Power Five level with the upside of developing into an early to mid-round NFL Draft pick.”
As previously mentioned, Ohio State has a deep running back room this season — a luxury they did not have coming into last year. Just a few days into preseason camp in 2020, the Buckeyes were down to just one healthy scholarship running back in Steele Chambers after injuries to both Master Teague and Marcus Crowley. Obviously, this was before the addition of Trey Sermon, who burst onto the scene late in the year after transferring from Oklahoma before his unfortunate injury at the start of the national title game. This time around, things will be much different.
There is no shortage of options at running back in 2021, as in addition to the return of Teague, Crowley and Chambers, Ohio State also had to like what it saw from Miyan Williams in limited snaps a year ago. The man affectionately known as “meatball” stepped up admirably as a freshman and make some really nice plays. All four of these guys will provide hefty competition to both Henderson and now Pryor, who will have an uphill battle to climb as first-year players learning the offense for the first time.
That being the case, I wouldn’t count out either Pryor or Henderson potentially seeing significant playing time in 2021. While Teague is the incumbent starter, I wouldn’t say the starting job is anywhere near locked up, especially with how talented all the guys around him are. When it comes to Pryor, he may be the team’s best pass-catching running back on the roster, especially with Demario McCall continuing to be a massive question mark heading into what feels like year 10 in Columbus. The team will be looking for someone like that now that Sermon is off to the NFL, and Pryor could quickly become that guy.