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With this cycle solved, Buckeyes turn focus to 2022 running backs

Tony Alford-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Tony Alford has eyes on the future as he looks for the next wave of Ohio State running backs. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football Recruiting

With this cycle solved, Buckeyes turn focus to 2022 running backs

COLUMBUS — With two early commitments in the Class of 2021 at running back, Tony Alford and Ohio State are in an enviable position.

With a pair of the nation’s best rising-senior tailbacks in the fold, the Buckeyes are able to turn their attention to the Class of 2022 and beyond on the recruiting trail.

That isn’t particularly easy to do without visits and in-person evaluations. But the running back position doesn’t present the same challenges as others — like quarterback, for example — because in most cases if there’s a surefire stud emerging at tailback, he’s usually already getting carries on the varsity level in his sophomore season.

With that in mind, let’s take an early look at the options emerging for Tony Alford and the Buckeyes in the Class of 2022. Right now, the plan is to add two running backs in this group as Ohio State has in 2021.

J.K. Dobbins-Ohio State-Ohio State football-Buckeyes

Ohio State is searching for the next J.K. Dobbins. (Sam Silverman/Lettermen Row)

To this point, the Buckeyes have offered eight different sophomore running backs. But there are other players worth paying close attention to around the country. This list is going to grow whenever players are able to get back on college campuses and get seen by college coaches in person. But for now, it’s a good starting point to see where the Buckeyes stand.

The rankings listed are the 247Sports.com rankings, not the composite that Lettermen Row usually references, because right now the rankings for the 2022 class aren’t updated across the national recruiting networks.

Gavin Sawchuk • Colorado • National Rank: 4

Ohio State sees Sawchuk as one of the country’s most explosive athletes in the Class of 2022, but he’s probably the least likely of this group to be a pure running back in college. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete from Valor Christian High School in Littleton, Sawchuk comes from Tony Alford’s backyard. That connection has been the root of a strong early relationship.

The question here is whether or not Sawchuk is a true running back. But right now, that’s where it seems he’ll end up. The country’s No. 4-ranked running back has 25 offers already.

Jovantae Barnes • Nevada • National Rank: 5

The Buckeyes have not yet offered the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Barnes. But the Desert Pines (Las Vegas) product has caught the attention of Alford and the Ohio State coaching staff, which began reaching out to him in early May. Barnes has 26 early offers — including schools like Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Michigan, Florida, Oregon and USC.

The Buckeyes need to offer soon if they want to get really into the conversation here.

Jaydon Blue • Texas • National Rank: 7

The tape on Jaydon Blue should make fans think of former Buckeyes tailback J.K. Dobbins, who came out of Texas in the Class of 2017 in a very similar mold as the 5-foot-9, 182-pound Blue.

There are 22 offers already for Blue, including Ohio State. But some early leaders are emerging from a list that includes LSU and Texas. The Buckeyes are probably a long-shot in this recruitment right now. Still, he’s the type of player who would excel in the offense Ryan Day runs.

Nicholas Singleton • Pennsylvania • National Rank: 8

It’s never easy to recruit a prospect from Pennsylvania because of the hold Penn State has on the area. But Tony Alford and the Buckeyes have made themselves an early favorite for this 5-foot-11, 195-pound running back from Governor Mifflin (Reading) High School.

Singleton scored 32 touchdowns as a sophomore, and he’s one of the players that the Buckeyes have paid close attention and continue to talk with as much as possible. This is a major target for Ohio State. Singleton has 27 offers with Penn State and Notre Dame heavily entrenched in the early action.

Jadarian Price • Texas • National Rank: 11

One of the very few players on this list who Ohio State has actually see play in person, Price is another prospect similar to J.K. Dobbins. And he’s a young man from a great program in Denison that the Buckeyes would love to know more about.

When visits are allowed again, expect Jadarian Price to be one of Tony Alford’s first stops. Price has 14 offers and plays his recruitment very close to the vest, so it’s important for Ohio State to get an opportunity to meet him and get to know him in person.

Kaytron Allen • Florida • National Rank: 14

Originally from Virginia, Kaytron Allen split carries at the IMG Academy as a sophomore with Georgia 2021 commit Lovasea Carroll — but has still emerged as a top player to watch nationally.

Ohio State has Allen much higher on its board than the national ranking currently does, and the 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back has been reciprocating the interest. He has 17 early offers.

Terrance Gibbs • Florida • National Rank: 20

If we’re talking about Florida running backs that Ohio State regards very highly, Terrance Gibbs has to be mentioned because he’s a top target for Tony Alford and the Buckeyes in the Class of 2022. From The Master’s Academy just outside of Orlando, Gibbs has offers from Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Georgia, Texas and Michigan to his credit.

Dillon Tatum • Michigan • National Rank: 21

A teammate of former Buckeyes 2021 target Donovan Edwards, Tatum is a big-time prospect from West Bloomfield (Mich.) and a young man who blew up on the recruiting scene last winter. He’s seen that momentum curtailed a bit because of the Covid-19 dead periods that stopped spring and summer visits around the country with Edwards.

Ohio State likes his versatility and his size, but it may be forced to overcome the perception that it did Edwards wrong by accepting commitments from other running backs in the Class of 2021 after recruiting him for so long. Tatum has 30 offers and can also play defense.

Gi’Bran Payne • Ohio • National Rank: 24

Payne does not have an Ohio State offer. But he’s absolutely a player that the Buckeyes have real interest in moving forward. A Cincinnati prospect and a star at La Salle, Payne would have been in line for that coveted Ohio State offer had there been camp some opportunities in Columbus this summer. Now an offer likely won’t come until his junior film is finished.

5-foot-11 and 190-pounds, Gi’Bran Payne is Ohio’s No. 7-ranked 2022 prospect and a guy that Buckeyes will pay close attention to over the next few months.

Birm

Birm is Lettermen Row's Director of Recruiting and the site's primary Ohio State sports photographer. A Toledo, Ohio native, Jeremy has been in similar roles for elevenwarriors.com and Landof10.com and has been covering the Buckeyes for seven years.