Positional breakdown: Analyzing running backs, tight ends, offensive line

Our look at the Ohio State football depth chart to begin the 2022 season continues today with running backs, tight ends and the offensive line.

While the quarterbacks and receivers might get most of the headlines, these three groups figure to be the difference between Ryan Day’s team having a good offense and a great one.

Running back

Returning starter: TreVeyon Henderson

Backup: Miyan Williams

Also in the mix: Evan Pryor

On the horizon: Dallan Hayden

Henderson finished last season with 1,248 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and 27 catches for 312 yards and four more scores despite dealing with some nagging injuries as the season wore on.

The 5-foot-10, 215-pounder was a big play waiting to happen last season, but another year of physical development should help him better navigate the rigorous Big Ten schedule.

Williams, a 5-9, 225-pound bowling ball with elusiveness and wiggle, ran for over 200 yards in the first two games then was limited by undisclosed injuries for a period of time. The Cincinnati native posted another 100-yard game in November against Purdue and finished with 508 yards an three touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Some thought he could leave to be a starter elsewhere, but he is still around to give Ohio State one of the best one-two punches in the nation at running back.

Pryor is smaller (5-10, 198) but out to prove he is an every-down back when it is his turn. He’s also thought of as someone who can contribute in the passing game in his second year in Columbus.

Hayden is a four-star recruit from Tennessee who was one of the top 25 running backs in the country last year and figures to provide depth for coach Tony Alford this fall.

Tight end

Projected new starter: Cade Stover

Also in the mix: Joe Royer, Mitch Rossi, Gee Scott Jr., Sam Hart

On the horizon: Bennett Christian

The 6-4, 255-pound Stover cuts the profile of an NFL tight end more than a modern NFL linebacker, so Ohio’s Mr. Football for 2018 chose to stick with offense after dabbling on defense last last season. He is still developing the various skills needed to thrive at tight end, but early returns in the spring were positive. Position coach Kevin Wilson talked about Stover bringing a defensive mindset to the offense, and Stover confirmed he felt more at home there than ever.

Royer should be set for a larger role in his third college season after arriving from Cincinnati Elder as a three-star recruit. He and Hart, a 6-5, 245-pound redshirt freshman from Colorado, are on the more traditional development path for the position, which they were both recruited to play out of high school.

That is not the case for Stover, Rossi or Scott.

Rossi (6-1, 245) emerged last season as an option not only as the No. 2 tight end but also someone with the ability to line up on the wing or even at fullback. The former walk-on is back for a sixth year in Columbus, and his backup in that hybrid role could be sophomore Zak Herbstreit, another walk-on, fellow Tennesseean and the son of former Ohio State captain Kirk Herbstreit.

Scott arrived three years ago as a four-star receiver recruit from Seattle. He moved to tight end last year and is listed at 225 pounds, but Wilson said he would like to see him get over 230 by the fall. He could be an extra set of hands as the No. 2 tight end, but to get significant playing time he will need to prove his chops as a blocker.

Christian is a 6-6, 235-pound four-star recruit from Georgia who enrolled early to get his development started in the spring.

Offensive line

Returning starters: Luke Wypler (center), Paris Johnson Jr. (left tackle), Dawand Jones (right tackle)

Projected new starters: Matt Jones, Donovan Jackson

Also in the mix: Josh Fryar, Enokk Vimahi, Jakob James, Grant Toutant, Zen Michalski, Trey Leroux, Ben Christman, Toby Wilson

On the horizon: Tegra Tshabola, George Fitzpatrick, Carson Hinzman, Avery Henry

New offensive line coach Justin Frye appears to have a strong starting five to lean on with four veterans (Johnson, Jones, Jones and Wypler) to be joined by Jackson, a five-star recruit who arrived last summer but still managed to find his way into the two-deep and even get some looks as a short-yardage tight end.

Wypler was a surprise starter when Harry Miller was injured last preseason, and the New Jersey native turned in a solid first season in the middle.

Dawand Jones was also a surprise starter at right tackle after a strong offseason, and he was one of the better players in the country at his position.

A year to plug holes in their game should make both Wypler and Jones better this fall, and Johnson is expected to excel at his more natural position after starting at guard last season.

Matt Jones, a fifth-year senior from Brooklyn, has excelled as a super sub the last two seasons, and a more traditional lineup with two true tackles and two true guards could help shore up issues that plagued the running game last season.

Then what?

Unlike the Jim Tressel years, most of the backups have a high recruiting pedigree, but few of them have shown what they can do on the field yet.

Fryar has received high praise from coaches and teammates, but he missed spring with an injury. James also has been talked highly of while Vimahi has shown flashes of having what it takes to play in the Big Ten.

Tshabola was an early commit in the class of 2022 from Lakota West, and he arrived in the summer along with Hinzman and Henry to provide more depth in the short term and potentially grow into starters down the line.

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