Former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer used to talk about how as an offensive staff, they would put a list together of the guys who were their best playmakers and who absolutely had to get the football during games. The practice wasn’t unique to the Buckeyes, of course, but it does make a person wonder what Ohio State’s list of playmakers looks like heading into the 2023 season.
Me being the thoughtful person I am, I thought I’d go ahead and try to rank them in order from 10 to 1. It’s an easy enough idea. Finding 10 playmakers in this offense to talk about isn’t difficult. The difficult part is figuring out where to make the cut line between 10 and 11. There are some very talented players who will not be part of this year’s list, but will almost certainly be part of next year’s list.
As always, feel free to be enraged at something you disagree with. This is the internet, after all.
The No. 10 player on this list didn’t play last year due to a knee injury, and hasn’t played in a game since October 23, 2021.
No. 10 — Evan Pryor, rSoph, RB
Evan Pryor was one of the more explosive and dynamic running backs in the 2021 recruiting class. He could have gone anywhere to play his college football, and he chose Ohio State. Pryor played in four games as a true freshman and redshirted, which wasn’t unexpected. He watched classmate TreVeyon Henderson and redshirt freshman Miyan Williams both blossom in 2021. Once again, he could have entered the portal to go play anywhere else in America. But that was never the plan.
Pryor was impressing in fall camp last year, but tore his patellar tendon in practice and was lost for the season. Intrigue was high last year prior to the injury, so there’s no reason not to ramp it back up this year as Pryor gets back to full strength. He was held out of spring ball, but will be ready to go all out in fall camp next month.
2021: 21 rushes, 98 yards (4.7 ypc), 1 TD; 2 receptions, 8 yards
Well, considering that Evan Pryor has only played in four games to this point in his career, and the final score of those four games have been 59-7, 52-13, 66-17, and 54-7, the word “biggest” is doing a lot of work here. That being said, his biggest play so far was a 12-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Akron in 2021, but there will be bigger plays this season.
Pryor peeled off a 16-yard run in the fourth quarter of a 51-7 game at Indiana in 2021. It came two snaps after a 30-yard pickup on a screen pass that was called back due to an illegal block.
What He Does Well
Three of Evan Pryor’s 21 carries in 2021 went for at least 10 yards, and he was doing that against defenses that knew the Buckeyes were running the ball. Pryor has only carried the ball in the second half of games, and mostly in the fourth quarter when OSU is trying to run the clock out. It was not an advantageous situation for Pryor.
Despite the (quite literally) stacked deck, Pryor still showed an ability to make defenders miss and get back up to speed quickly. He is also a talented pass catcher who could be used out of the backfield, or possibly even the slot. Running backs coach Tony Alford also mentioned that he hopes to see Pryor involved in kickoff return as well. It’s something that he worked on prior to his injury.
However he gets the ball, he should be on the field early enough in games this year to provide some kind of mystery to a defense. In other words, let’s see what he does when he isn’t running into eight or nine men at the line of scrimmage for a change.
Expectations For This Season
There are four running backs on the Ohio State roster with more experience than Pryor, and the Buckeyes needed more than the four of them last year. Had Pryor been healthy last year, his year could have been a combination of what the Buckeyes got from freshman running back Dallan Hayden and fifth-year senior receiver Xavier Johnson.
Pryor has the ability to be a different kind of matchup for Ohio State, so look for them to find ways to take advantage of his skill set. Imagine what folks would be saying about him this year had he been healthy last year, and realize that maybe the expectations for this year aren’t nearly as high as they should be.