Ohio State football: Can Dallan Hayden carry the mail against the Wolverines?
In Saturday’s win over Maryland, Ohio State’s featured running back had another big game: 147 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. Coach Ryan Day was impressed.
“He’s seeing it,” Day said of the star running back. “When you see him hit it, he’s running through contact.”
Must be Miyan Williams? Nope. Out with an injury. TreVeyon Henderson? No, played little, a shadow of his former himself.
With Ohio State/Michigan teed up and awaiting, Ohio State fans can be forgiven for being a little nervous. With a perfect regular season and a lead-lock cinch spot in the CFP on the line, the offense might well depend on … Dallan Hayden?
Yes, Dallan Hayden.
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In a season where the constants for Ohio State have been its relatively spotless excellence (although yesterday’s 43-30 clunked over Maryland might not be an exhibit to that argument) and its run of horrific injuries, it’s true freshman running back Dallan Hayden — fresh off a career game, if it’s safe to use such a phrase for an 8-appearance span — who might be the most significant player next week.
The 5-10, 195-pound youngster from Memphis has had an outstanding season. A preseason injury to another back and some departures cleared the way for the son of former Tennessee and NFL running back Aaron Hayden to play from Day 1 … and he has. His 100 carries, 503 yards and 5 touchdowns nearly distract from the fact that Hayden’s 5.0 yards per carry, while solid, isn’t Miyan Williams’s 6.7 yards per carry. Or TreVeyon Henderson’s 5.3. But Hayden is healthy, and right now that’s making all the difference.
Williams was sidelined by a leg injury sustained in the win over Indiana. He’s previously missed the Michigan State game and had just 2 carries against Penn State. Henderson returned yesterday from either a second injury or an aggravation of a first injury. Either way, he missed Ohio State’s win over Rutgers and, after playing several games, sat out wins over Northwestern and Indiana.
Henderson returned against Maryland, but wasn’t himself. He had 11 carries for 19 yards, and by the second half, found himself sitting and watching 4-star recruit Hayden.
It’s not as if Hayden found himself unequal to the task. While his 27 carries and 146 yards were season highs, and his 3 touchdowns eclipsed his season total, it was his 3rd 100-yard performance, following games against Toledo (108) and Indiana (102). His impressive blend of speed and strength means that Ohio State can legitimately go 3 deep at the running back spot without much drop-off.
“He really got us into a rhythm,” Day said after Saturday’s performance. “When you hand somebody that football, you’re putting the whole team in their hands.”
There’s no doubt that Ohio State would prefer to have a fully functional backfield. Day hopes to have Williams back for Michigan. And whatever Henderson’s lingering issues were, he brushed them aside pretty easily on a 31-yard touchdown reception early in Saturday’s win.
But if Ohio State is stuck with Hayden … well, it’s not the worst spot to be in.
“Dallan’s a hard worker,” QB CJ Stroud said after the game. “I’m so super proud of him, and I think he has more to come.”
Ohio State’s season might depend on Stroud being right.