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Column: Ohio State should not forget about Miyan Williams

With Treveyon Henderson’s stardom and Evan Pryor’s spring game, it may be easy to overlook Williams

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sometimes it’s really easy to foresee success. Take TreVeyon Henderson for example. Yeah, he was a five-star recruit — the top running back in his class. But it was his film that convinced me. I couldn’t get enough of watching Henderson’s high school film. A natural in changing direction, seemingly twice as fast as anyone else on the field, and a nose for the end zone.

Other times, that foresight can’t see a dark horse like Miyan Williams. Williams was in Ohio State’s 2020 class, but he didn’t enroll until August of that year, so we didn’t hear much about him. By the time that the fall rolled around, we were in full COVID mode, and the discussion revolved around whether there would be a season at all. At running back, Master Teague was returning, and there was a buzz about Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon. Hardly a mention of Williams.

Miyan Williams: recruiting and freshman year

That 2020 recruiting class was ranked No. 5 in the nation and had three five-star recruits: Julian Fleming, the No. 1-ranked wide receiver; Paris Johnson, Jr., the No. 1-ranked offensive tackle; and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the No. 5-ranked receiver. Oh, and, by the way, the class also included four-star C.J. Stroud, the No. 2-ranked pro-style quarterback.

Miyan Williams? He had a three-star rating, was the No. 45-ranked running back, and was ranked No. 627 nationally at any position. Listed at 5-foot-10 (doubt it!) and 210, the Ohio native had picked up 13 offers from Big Ten schools as well as Cincinnati, Kentucky, Toledo. He first committed to Iowa State, then decommitted and committed to the Buckeyes on the same day, Nov. 23, 2019. At that time, I would have put my money on the Bucks winning the national championship. Maybe that’s why Williams changed his mind.

Williams didn’t play much in that abbreviated, weird first season that was his freshman year. Seeing action in only four games, Williams carried the ball 10 times and gained 64 yards. Sermon and Teague each had over 100 carries in the eight-game season. Williams didn’t have a touchdown, didn’t have a pass reception. But he flashed (briefly) in the national championship debacle against Bama after Sermon went down. We at least knew now who he was.

Williams in the 2021 season

Now, I think that all of us were disappointed in Teague’s 2020 performance, but I was still surprised to see Williams named as the starting running back in the season opener at Minnesota, and even more surprised to see him break a 71-yarder for his first career TD on the Buckeyes’ first possession. Williams finished that game with nine carries for 125 yards, a 13.9-yard average per carry. Even if we subtract the long run, he still had a 6.75 average on those other eight runs.

How about Henderson, in his debut? He had a couple of carries, but what turned our heads was his 70-yard pass reception for a touchdown. Henderson in the open field is a joy to behold.

In the season’s second game, against Oregon, nobody did particularly well, as I recall. Williams gained 77 yards for his 14 carries (5.5 average), and Henderson picked up 54 on his 12 runs (4.5). Not much to distinguish the two backs.

Then, Williams’ injuries began. He sat out while the Buckeyes played Tulsa. But Henderson had his breakout game — went wild, in fact. 270 rushing yards! An 11.7-yard per rush average. Three rushing TDs. The freshman had distinguished himself as the clear starter. Williams would miss two more games before the season was through. Although Ryan Day isn’t very forthcoming when it comes to specifying either the nature or the severity of player injuries, reports on Williams suggested a concussion. By the time that he was back in the mix against Indiana, he was the backup.

Despite the injuries, despite the meteoric rise of TreVeyon Henderson, Williams had a very good year. He rushed 71 times and gained 508 yards, good for a 7.2-yard average. (Henderson’s for the year was 6.8.) Williams had three rushing TDs and caught nine passes for another 74 yards. If we add it up, we see Williams with 80 touches for 582 yards, an average gain of 7.3 yards every time that he touched the ball. Henderson’s average, for his 210 touches, was slightly better at 7.4 yards. We can’t overlook, however, that Henderson had a record-setting 19 touchdowns – again, a nose for the end zone.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: MAR 29 Ohio State Spring Practice
Miyan Williams: new number, fresh start
Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Williams in 2022

Now we’re entering the 2022 season. Henderson looks to be an All-American, perhaps a Heisman candidate. And Evan Pryor flashed his speed in the spring game. One wonders, where does Miyan Williams figure in?

Apparently, other coaches have been asking the same question. OSU running backs coach Tony Alford recently addressed the issue of other teams “poaching” Buckeye players. We’re accustomed to teams continuing to recruit after a commitment, and that’s a kind of poaching. But Alford was discussing coaches approaching current players, offering the prospect of transferring for more playing time via the transfer portal. And he was talking about Miyan Williams specifically.

Clearly, Williams would be attractive to almost any team in the country. He’s experienced and has an enviable track record. He’s big, and he’s faster than one would expect. We’ve seen him break runs. He’s not disgruntled with his situation, though, and Alford claims to have an excellent personal relationship with Williams and his family. Williams is a Buckeye; however, he will have to figure into the game plan.

Obviously, Alford and Day have a full running back room. Just as obviously, Henderson is top dog. I would like to see both Williams and Pryor used in imaginative ways this season. Not just Henderson for three series, Williams for one, Henderson for three more, Pryor for one. All three are really good backs, and they have different skills – although all can catch passes and run after the catch. What might we expect? Situational backs? Yes, quite possibly. More passes to running backs? Yes, I’d expect so. Two backs in the same set? Ooh, daring.

Whatever use the Bucks find for Miyan Williams, I hope that we see him often, playing when it matters and contributing what he has to give. I repeat: Don’t forget Miyan Williams. He’s too good to neglect. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, he’s now wearing jersey No. 3, instead of No. 28.