COLUMBUS — Trey Sermon gave Ohio State an early look at what he can do at an elite level.
When Sermon was just a freshman at Oklahoma, he rushed for 62 yards and caught a touchdown on the Ohio State defense in the Horseshoe. The performance for Sermon helped the Sooners down the Buckeyes and eventually make their way to the College Football Playoff.
So when Ohio State, thin at running back after injuries, had a need and Sermon entered the transfer portal, the Buckeyes found their back to pair beside Justin Fields. It was nearly a match made in football heaven.
“We know, we played against him,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “We saw what he could do on the field. He’s a really good player. … Master [Teague] getting hurt here in the spring put us behind the eight-ball a little bit in terms of depth, and then Marcus Crowley is coming off the ACL. So when Trey became available, we did a lot of research, made a lot of calls, the people at Oklahoma had such great things to say about him.”
Most of what Oklahoma does closely resembles what Ohio State will do offensively with Sermon. Sooners coach Lincoln Riley and Day are two of the best offensive minds in college football. And they know how to use their running backs successfully.
Day just had a 2,000-yard back last season. Riley has had 1,000-yard backs; Sermon was nearly one of them during his sophomore campaign in 2018. Both coaches have made the College Football Playoff with the help of elite running back play.
“There are definitely similarities with the offense, and that’s kind of what helped my decision as well going into an offense that is pretty similar,” Sermon told Lettermen Row when he decided to transfer. “That way I just have to learn the terminology, and just the [experience] understanding the game helps as well. I talked to Coach [Ryan] Day a little bit as well, he seems like a great guy. Just based off our conversations that we had and texting back and forth, I’m just excited to play for him.”
Sermon will bring more than 2,000 career rushing yards to the Ohio State offense. He’ll bring 25 career touchdowns with him. And he’ll bring an ability to be explosive when handed the ball and elusive catching out of the backfield.
He’s a dangerous component to add to the Ohio State offense that should be loaded with talent once again. Coming from a Big 12 offense, Sermon did plenty of damage in a league not exactly known for great defense. But he also has some impressive moments against some of the best defensive players in the country, even back when he was just a freshman.
He isn’t a complete product. Fresh off a season-ending knee injury, Sermon is building back to where he was before being put on the shelf last year as the Sooners made their way to the College Football Playoff. But his big-game experience will be a change of pace when compared to the young and inexperienced running back unit at Ohio State.
Sermon won’t be handed the starting job. But with plays like he made at Oklahoma, he’ll be awarded the first-team reps in the fall and begin to develop chemistry within the Ohio State offense, where he could flourish — just like he did in a similar system at Oklahoma.