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2023 is an important season in Evan Pryor’s OSU career

After missing all of 2022, Pryor finds himself in the midst of several already established options at running back.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

All of a sudden, the Ohio State backfield has gotten crowded — at least if everyone is healthy. The Buckeyes have capable and proven runners in Miyan Williams, TreVeyon Henderson, Dallan Hayden, and Chip Trayanum. Beyond that, preferred walk-on TC Caffrey flashed when he got his opportunity in 2022, with 10 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown.

One name that might have slipped people’s minds during the last year is Evan Pryor. You might remember him from his four appearances during the 2021 season, in which he carried the ball 21 times for 98 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a couple of passes for eight more yards.

The former four-star recruit is coming off a difficult knee injury that occurred just a couple of weeks before the first game of the 2022 season and kept him out the entire year. He was still rehabbing it through the spring, and it seems as if he’ll enter the preseason camp around fifth on the depth chart in Tony Alford’s running backs room.

The pecking order at the moment would seem to be some combination of Williams and Henderson at 1A and 1B, with Trayanum third and Hayden fourth. Pryor has a long climb ahead of him. However, Pryor isn’t built like those other guys, and he may find snaps just by being different.

Whether just to get the ball out quickly or by design, the Buckeye quarterbacks in the Spring Game threw more to their running backs than we’ve seen in recent years. If this is an area that Ryan Day is going to put more emphasis on in 2023, Pryor might turn into a bigger factor than expected.

More slightly built than his fellow backs, Pryor is the proverbial change-of-pace guy or what they used to call a third-down back. He provides a dual threat of being able to run or catch a pass out of the backfield. Getting the ball in the open field, where Pryor’s skillset should allow him to excel, could make him the kind of versatile performer that Curtis Samuel was during his time in Columbus.

While Xavier Johnson can fill that same role — and has — Pryor may be a more dynamic player after the catch, which is saying something, considering Johnson’s performances over the past year.

Pryor could also see time on special teams. While kickoff returns have been partially legislated out of the game, they still happen and Pryor’s open-field abilities may make him a good choice to replace Trayanum on that particular special teams unit.

Ultimately, whether Pryor ends up buried deep on the depth chart or gets his OSU career back on track, will depend on how the Cornelius, North Carolina native comes back from his injury. If he can regain his explosiveness and ability to change directions, he still has time to impress the coaching staff and work his way into the rotation — at least as a situational option.

His future as a Buckeye may depend on a quick return, as there is talent coming into the program behind him. Still, he redshirted after the four games in 2021 and with a medical redshirt for 2022, he could still feature for Ohio State for four seasons.

It will be interesting to see whether he can get his OSU career back on track and if that will start this fall.