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Question: How does losing Evan Pryor impact the Ohio State offense?
As all Buckeye fans likely know at this point, former four-star, redshirt freshman running back Evan Pryor suffered an injury this week and will reportedly miss the entire 2022 college football season. Though he was almost certainly third on the Ohio State running back depth chart, expectations were high that he could steal some carries from starter TreVeyon Henderson and No. 2 option Miyan Williams while also figuring into the passing game.
Word out of offseason workouts was that after playing in four games and rushing for 98 yards during his first season in Columbus, Pryor had worked himself into a dynamic, change-of-pace option from the bigger, more physical Henderson and Williams.
While there are obviously a lot of differences between the team’s top two backs — and both have their own unique dynamicism — because Pryor is nearly 20 to 30 pounds lighter than his backfield brethren, he brings a different style of explosiveness and elusiveness to the stable.
Though most fans and onlookers were pretty comfortable acknowledging a somewhat sizable gap between Pryor and the top two backs in terms of expected usage, the former’s exciting skill set was a popular preseason puzzle piece that many had hoped that the Buckeye coaching staff would be able to plug into the offensive plans.
With Pryor now out for the season, many have noted that it likely won’t have a significant impact the larger picture of how the Buckeyes deploy their cadre of backs, and that is almost certainly true. Henderson and Williams would have shouldered the bulk of the carries had Pryor been available, and they will still shoulder the bulk of the carries with him out. So, from a game-to-game perspective, I agree, Pryor’s injury likely won’t present a major issue to the OSU offense.
Of course, losing a back as talented as he is is never ideal, and it hampers the overall depth at the position. However, the Buckeyes do still have true freshman Dallan Hayden and a number of warm bodies to fill in any workload gaps that might present themselves during the season. But, if Henderson or Williams ends up missing time for any reason, not having Pryor will certainly become more of an issue.
But, to me, the biggest impact that losing Pryor will have on the season is the ability for the Buckeyes to throw out yet another offensive weapon against the best teams on the schedule. We know that OSU’s wide receivers are literally second-to-none in college football, and the team’s 1-2 punch of Henderson and Williams certainly stacks up well to nearly any backfield in the country. But when a team is hoping to rise to a championship level, every unique option can make a difference.
Will not having Pryor matter when the Buckeyes take on Arkansas State or Toledo? Absolutely not. What about Wisconsin or Michigan State? I’d say likely not. Penn State and TTUN? I’d still say probably not.
What about Georgia or Alabama? Now here’s where Pryor’s absence could come into play. I love TreVeyon Henderson and think that he has the potential to be the best running back in the country, assuming Ryan Day gives him enough carries and the offensive line gives him enough room to run.
I also think that Williams’ journey from after-thought recruit to a beloved folk hero amongst the fan base is why I love college football. But neither of them do what Evan Pryor does, or at least not in the same way.
Henderson certainly has ample amounts of speed and shiftiness, and “Porkchop” is much more elusive than his moniker and bowling ball reputation give him credit for, but if you give Pryor space, he is an incredibly difficult back to bring down, as evidenced by his performance in the spring game. The way that the coaching staff used him to stretch the field and formations, and also as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield would have been a nice element to force the Crimson Tide and/or Bulldogs to gameplan for in the playoffs.
I expect Ohio State to have the most productive and dynamic offense in college football for the second year in a row, and that will overwhelm nearly everybody on the team’s schedule. However, if the Buckeyes want to accomplish the top-line goals on their collective to-do list, they will need to be able to beat the best teams in the country, and any extra help around the margins will be helpful; and that’s where I think losing Pryor could end up hurting.
The Buckeyes are now without a versatile weapon from their arsenal. While it might have only been occasionally deployed throughout the season, having it available at the most opportune of times would have given the team an added element that it now will have to do without in the biggest games of the year.