Back To Form
Ohio State junior running back TreVeyon Henderson was healthy for exactly two games last season. He injured his foot in the third game of the year and dealt with an uncooperative lower leg the rest of the year.
Henderson had his highs and lows following the injury but was never fully himself through any of it. Surgery late in the season shut him down for the year but it has allowed him to work himself into form this year. The evidence of that has been seen by those in practice, and then echoed for anybody who cares to be listening.
In fact, when Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was asked for a pecking order at running back and how many he envisioned playing on Saturdays, he went first to Henderson.
“I think first off, Trey has had a great offseason. And he’s had a great first 10 days of practice,” Day said on Monday. “I think he looks fast. He’s seeing the holes. He’s involved on special teams. He just overall, I can’t say enough about the kind of work he’s putting in right now. Now he’s got to go do it. And I know he’s anxious to get back on the field.
“From there, I think Miyan [Williams] and Dallan [Hayden], Chip [Trayanum], Evan [Pryor], those guys will all get in the game. There’s a lot of different ways that we can do that. And we’ll let them keep working but there’ll always be opportunity.”
That opportunity can show up at any time, as Day saw first-hand a year ago.
“I mean, you know how it went last year, right?” he asked rhetorically. “Usually around this time of year everyone looks at the depth chart and says ‘How are you going to get all these guys reps?’ And we’re halfway through the season and we can’t find a running back. You know, it’s just kind of how it goes. So I know those guys are taking care of their bodies. They all want to be healthy and they all want to play.”
Exploring The Room
When it came to finding some competition for the open center position this year, Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye left no stone unturned. That hard-target search included every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in the transfer portal.
It ended at Lousiana-Monroe right tackle Victor Cutler, who entered the portal in the winter and signed with the Buckeyes in time to take part in spring practice. It was a productive spring for Cutler, but not as productive as it could have been. The first step towards making the summer more productive than the spring was simply trusting in strength coach Mickey Marotti.
“It’s really just trusting this offseason program. I know Coach Mick and everything that they do here, I know it was gonna get me right,” Cutler said this week. “So I just bought into everything that was going on. I took it serious. I took the workouts more serious. I took my recovery serious. I eliminated every distraction that wasn’t football, and I just focused on that. And I feel like that’s what’s gotten me so much better than I was in spring.”
Cutler spent four years at Louisiana-Monroe before finally coming to Ohio State. As the WarHawks’ starting right tackle last year, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to move to center for the Buckeyes. Ultimately, he decided that would be the best move for him now and down the road. That meant, however, that not only would he be playing a new position, but he’d also be doing it at a school that is much larger than his previous stop.
“I’d say it’s a lot different,” Cutler admitted. “I’ve had some growing pains. Yeah, I’m older but I still have a lot of growing pains. I haven’t been in a program like this. So I feel like I’ve gotten bigger, faster, and stronger to a level that I didn’t even know I could reach here.”
Once spring ended and he was able to get his head back above water, he looked around and saw the vast avenues Ohio State had for him to improve his game. It was something that he simply wasn’t used to at his previous stop.
“It’s a lot. The nutrition, the weight program. It’s just a lot of stuff they have here to offer me that I didn’t know about right when I got here that I can utilize now,” he explained. “I mean, if I have a question about anything I can just ask and they could get it for me, whether it’s an extra smoothie or some food or just hydration purposes or sleeping habits. It’s just whatever I need, they have for me.”
Fifth-year senior Cade Stover returns for his second season as the Buckeyes’ starting tight end. Last year he finished with 36 receptions, which was third on the team behind star receivers Marvin Harrison, Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.
Expectations are high for Stover, but so are the standards. With a new starting quarterback this year for the Buckeyes, everybody is going to have to step their games up, which suits Stover just fine.
Tight ends coach Keenan Bailey said that part of his job is to keep Stover uncomfortable, because through his discomfort he will become a player who can handle anything.
According to Stover, the work has been unique, but productive.
“He does a really good job at that as far as making me feel like there’s stuff I’m good at,” Stover explained. “The stuff that, ‘Hey, you’re good at this, you could do consistently at a high rate and high consistency,’ but there’s also things that I have never done before that he constantly puts me in positions in way more than the comfortable positions.”
“So like in practice and stuff, I’m doing stuff that a lot of times I’ve never done before in my life,” he said. “Like, I run way more one-on-ones with safeties now than I ever have. Up until this year, I’ve never ran a one-on-one with a safety, just in a one-on-one drill, ever. Just little things like that, trying to make me uncomfortable and get better at those things just to broaden my base of what I can do.”