Running back Evan Pryor committed to Ohio State nearly three-and-a-half years ago. It was March 16 of 2020, and he became the first running back in the Buckeyes’ 2021 recruiting class.
Pryor played in four games as a true freshman, carrying the ball 21 times for 98 yards. He redshirted that year, with his final touches coming in a 54-7 win at Indiana in October.
The next year, he was making some noise early in fall camp, but he then tore his patellar tendon and was lost for the year. That means Pryor has had just 21 carries and two receptions in his first two seasons as a Buckeye.
As one of the nation’s top recruits in the 2021 class, Pryor didn’t expect to go two seasons with so few touches, but he has kept his head up and is readying for the coming season.
“He’s been out, so obviously when someone’s out, it’s kind of like out of sight, out of mind for some people — not for me and this building,” said Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford. “His demeanor has been fantastic from all indicators. He’s done everything he’s supposed to do to get himself back in order to play and so I’m excited about where he’s going.”
Pryor wasn’t yet cleared for spring ball, but the expectation is that he will be ready for fall camp. He will be one of five scholarship running backs on this year’s team looking for playing time. It’s a crowded room, so snaps won’t be easy to come by. To this point, however, nothing has come easy to Pryor, as his time at Ohio State hasn’t been what he expected.
Through it all, Alford has been there with Pryor, helping him when it was needed.
“Well, I think that’s part of being a coach, right? And part of being a parent,” Alford said. “You have to know your players and you have to know your kids and what buttons to push, and kind of when you’ve got to push them along, or when you got to hug them up, or when you have to encourage them, when you have to scold them. All those different things that come about.”
Alford hasn’t been the only person to help Evan Pryor along the way. His teammates and coaching staff have been there for him as well. But the most consistent person throughout the entire return has been Pryor himself.
“Evan’s a very prideful young guy,” Alford said. “He’s highly motivated and a confident person in his own skill set. And so there were some rough days for him, as there would be for anybody. And that’s where we talk about the brotherhood, that’s where we talk about the family atmosphere, that we’ve all got to lift one another up. And it’s not just player to coach. Lot of time the players got to lift the coaches, and vice versa. So that’s being part of a team and part of a family and I think Evan’s in a good place right now.”
In terms of what Pryor’s role might be this year, he is a versatile player who could be used to carry the ball, catch it out of the backfield or slot, and also get involved in the kick return game. That was going to be part of his slate of responsibilities last year prior to his injury, so don’t be surprised to see him back involved as a returner this season.
The Buckeyes relied on four different running backs last year — and that doesn’t include receiver Xavier Johnson for stretches as well. Evan Pryor was forced to watch as his team was beset by injuries at his position. Leading rushers TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams missed multiple games, and also played while dealing with injuries.
At times, the depth chart was as thin as the paper on which it was written. Pryor could do nothing but remain on the sideline. It was undoubtedly frustrating, but it surely provided for even more motivation to have an on-field impact as a redshirt sophomore in 2023.
“Yeah, it has been a journey for him,” Alford said. “It has been, but he’s done well, and like I said earlier, his demeanor has been great. So I’m excited about that for him and where he’s at and the way he’s coming back, so hopefully those things will work out.”