Ohio State running back coach Tony Alford is among the top recruiters in the country regardless of position when it comes to assistant coaches on the trail. In addition, his development of the position has been more than just solid too. J.K. Dobbins is perhaps the best example, but Alford deserves a ton of credit with other names too.
In his tenure at Ohio State, Alford has brought in elite level running backs for the Buckeyes, and it’s a feat that he looks to continue on until his time in Columbus comes to an end. Alford has been linked to head coaching jobs before, and while he’ll likely be linked to them again in the future, Ohio State is glad to have him on staff for the as long as he’d like to be thanks to all that he brings to the table.
Back to the recruiting side of things, everybody by now has a pretty decent idea about the Bijan Robinson recruitment in the 2020 class. After being all but confirmed as a silent commitment to Ohio State, his eventual commitment to Texas left Alford and the Buckeyes in a tough spot when it came to finding a running back for the class. Going from thinking you’d have the top back in the country to having to find someone else wasn’t an easy situation for Alford, but landing Miyan Williams late in the game and stealing him away from his Iowa State commitment showed Alford was constantly working.
Sure, 2020 recruiting wasn’t ideal, but Alford did more than just right the ship when he landed both TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor in 2021. Both elite running backs in their own right, Alford was able to pull in not one, but two of the top backs in the country and instantly gave those that may have looked down on his recruiting in 2020 a reason to see how valuable he truly is, not only to his position group, but to the staff in general.
As the 2022 cycle saw the commitment of Dallan Hayden, the Buckeyes only needed one running back in the class with the tremendous depth they currently in the room. As the 2023 class is the top priority now, the Buckeyes do have room to take two at the position and with one already in the fold thanks to Mark Fletcher, Alford is still doing his best to land Richard Young to be an incredible duo much like in 2021.
In this regard, here’s a closer look at Fletcher and what he brings to the table.
At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds and only a high school junior, Fletcher is one of the bigger backs the Buckeyes will have both from a height and weight stance. More of a Chris “Beanie” Wells comparison, Fletcher will bring a heavy load style presence to the run game that isn’t going to be fun for defenses to try and bring down.
The term “thunder and lightning” in the run game of course refers to having two different styles of backs, with one being more of a bruiser and the other being more elusive. Fletcher clearly fits the bill for being more of a thunder style runner, but with what Ohio State goes up against defensively each year, having a bigger back is a major asset for the late game offensive scheme.
Already at an impressive stature, the encouraging aspect here is what it can be with the help of Ohio State’s strength program. Mickey Marotti has the ability to transform players once they get to campus, and with Fletcher already off to a great start, it’s exciting to think of what he is and what he will be once at Ohio State for good.
Probably hand-in-hand with his size, Fletcher’s power as a running back is a huge addition to the backfield for the Buckeyes. What Alford was able to land in Fletcher is a guy that doesn’t go down on first contact. Whether it be his legs that continue to drive through a defender or even his arms as he sheds tacklers, the power Fletcher runs with is not only impressive, but needed. This physicality is exactly what Ohio State desires to have in their backs, and when you pair that with his size, it’s a dynamic combination.
As you can see below, Fletcher refuses to go down on the first sign of contact. A true highlight, this is the perfect clip for what coaches like to call “teach tape” when needing examples of how to do a certain task. Fletcher keeps his legs driving and uses his frame to bury a defender as he continues running down field. Safe to say Alford will be able to work with this pretty easily.
Most of the time when considering bigger backs, the elusive factor tends to take a backseat. When you have a bigger back like Fletcher, the idea is that they are more of a north and south back, rather than a player that can cut and make defenders miss.
Not the case with Fletcher. As you can see, there’s plenty of “shake” with his game — especially at the second level. Fletcher does a great job making one cut and getting vertical, but if you look at the balance he possesses, it’s not your typical 6-foot-1 running back running style. Alford has to be thrilled with what he sees in Fletcher’s game, and while he may not have to be, Fletcher looks the part to be an every down back because of his many attributes.
Pass Game Abilities
One of the great assets a running back can have is to be a legitimate option in the pass game. Not only as a receiver, but also in protection. Probably the best blocking back Ohio State has had in the last several years was Ezekiel Elliot. What he offered as a blocker was second to none, and much of that had to do with both physicality and overall frame that helps when taking on pass rushers. Looking at Fletcher and knowing his big frame, you can see the intangibles are already there when needing to stay in the backfield in protection.
See below for just a snippet of what he brings to that realm.
On the receiving end, Fletcher’s film shows there’s not many weaknesses to his game. Whether it’s in the screen game or as part of the quarterback’s progression, his hands prove to be consistent and that’s music to Ryan Day’s ears when calling an offense.
Overall, the Buckeyes are getting a total package caliber running back with Fletcher. From the size to his ability to do it all with the ball in his hands, Alford has got the job done again when it comes to landing an elite back for the current recruiting haul. The job’s not totally complete yet, as they’ll look to land one more at the position, but having the No. 155 best player nationally and the eighth best running back in the class per 247Sports is further proof that Alford continues to roll on the recruiting trail and that Fletcher probably deserves more attention than he’s currently getting.