Ohio State football: Holy Wally Pipp! Could Miyan Williams be RB1?
First, the origin story for the uninitiated.
Wally Pipp was the starting first baseman for the New York Yankees in the 1920s. Pipp was a really good player, a solid starter and valued contributor to the team. But on June 2, 1925, he had a headache. Nothing too serious, just the kind of nagging thing that led him to ask out of the lineup. His replacement was a rookie who just happened to be Lou Gehrig. By the time Pipp wanted back in the lineup, he had a much bigger headache. Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games through 1939, hampering Pipp’s career just a little bit.
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After Miyan Williams rushed for a record-tying 5 touchdowns and 189 yards in Ohio State’s 49-10 route of Rutgers, it’s fair to wonder if just maybe TreVeyon Henderson has been Pipped.
Henderson, who 247sports ranked as the top running back in the class of 2021, has seldom come up less than golden for the Buckeyes. Last season, the true freshman’s 1,255 rushing yards was 4th best in the Big Ten and his 6.82 yards per carry trailed only … Miyan Williams. Henderson also caught 27 passes for 312 yards and generally was a threat to rip off a big gain on any given play.
Williams, on the other hand, was a 3-star recruit in the class of 2020. Ranked as the 17th best player in Ohio, Williams was committed to Iowa State until the Buckeyes came calling in late 2019. Only 4 players in OSU’s recruiting class were lower ranked by 247sports than Williams, and one of those was a kicker.
In 2020, Williams played spot duty as a true freshman, gaining 64 yards on 10 carries.
Last season, he emerged from a crowded running back stable to bypass Master Teague and Isaiah Crowley for duty behind Henderson. In fact, in Ohio State’s opener, Williams actually outrushed Henderson, picking up 125 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries. For the season, Williams rushed for 507 yards and 7.1 yards per carry. Three times he didn’t play and 4 times he had fewer than 5 carries. But he did manage a couple of 100-yard efforts and made an effective power-running change of pace behind Henderson.
This year, Henderson and Williams split carries for the first 2 games. Then Henderson missed most of the Toledo game with an injury he sustained on the first series of the game. Williams was the first of the stable of backs who then entered, picking up 77 yards on 10 carries. Last week against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes fed Williams throughout the second half, as he picked up 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns on just 11 carries.
When Henderson was a game-time scratch from the lineup against Rutgers, Williams was quick to pick up the slack. The 5 touchdowns included 4 short-yardage plunges and a 70-yard explosion straight through the middle of the Rutgers defense. Sure, it was Rutgers, but Williams was, dare it be said, every bit as explosive as Henderson might have been.
“Miyan was running really hard today,” said Ryan Day after the victory. “He turns a 3-yard run into 5 … and it was tough down there in the red zone. They kind of dug in a few times … but Miyan had a really good day for us.”
Calling Williams “one of my best friends on the team,” Buckeyes QB CJ Stroud was effusive in his praise of Williams’ day. “It’s really inspiring to see him have a good game like that,” said Stroud, citing “all the work he puts in.”
Williams’s 497 rushing yards and 8 TDs will place him near the top of the stack in the Big Ten. But on his own team? If Henderson is ready to come back, does Williams slide back into the RB2 roll? Or has the modern-day Gehrig used Henderson’s brief absences to make himself irreplaceable?
If the historic parallel to the Yankees holds, the Buckeyes will have plenty more wins to sort it all out.