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Key to Ohio State, Tony Alford quietly rising in the coaching ranks

Tony Alford-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford has been an important asset for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Key to Ohio State, Tony Alford quietly rising in the coaching ranks

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the future of position coach Tony Alford as part of Running Back Week? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The Cadillac position doesn’t drive itself. And right now, the Ohio State running backs have one of the best possible options behind the wheel to lead a unit with some of the richest tradition and highest standards in college football.

So, how long will the Buckeyes be able to hang on to Tony Alford?

That’s always a complicated projection to make because it hinges on so many factors outside of even what an assistant can control. Alford has already come up as a possible target for multiple coaching searches involving MAC schools, although sources familiar with his thinking indicated he didn’t pursue them for whatever reason. It’s possible that he was simply content in his role with the Buckeyes, continuing to work with J.K. Dobbins and competing for championships while still drawing a $600,000 salary that offers little financial incentive to leave the program without a perfect fit.

But it’s that Ohio State pedigree, his time spent learning under Urban Meyer and the fantastic work he’s done with tailbacks like Dobbins, Mike Weber and Ezekiel Elliott that has caught the attention of athletic directors around the country. Alford has coached a 1,000-yard tailback in every season so far with the Buckeyes, he’s paid his dues over 22 years in the profession and his engaging personality helps him both build strong relationships with players and win press conferences. Eventually, Alford figures to get an offer that could pry him away from Ohio State — and the most likely possibility to watch would be if the Colorado State job opens and his alma mater looks to bring him home.

Tony Alford-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford has been talked about as a future head coach in the college ranks. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Again, that’s no certainty, even though the Rams currently appear to be trending in the wrong direction and will probably be involved in the market after this season. But that’s part of what makes it tricky to nail down predictions when it comes to the careers of coaches.

Maybe Colorado State turns it around. Maybe one of the co-offensive coordinators at Ohio State gets a head-coaching job after this season, which would put Alford in line for a promotion, an even heftier salary and a chance to add a title that might make him even more attractive nationally. That’s all speculation at this point, obviously.

But what is certain is how important Alford is to the Buckeyes right now, especially since the rushing attack is going to be critical for the program early in the season as it breaks in a new quarterback. Can Alford get Dobbins back to the level he was at as a freshman before the split workload with Weber seemed to sap a bit of his confidence? Will he have Master Teague, Demario McCall or freshmen Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers prepared to provide depth or step up if anything goes wrong with Dobbins? Can Alford keep attracting big names on the recruiting trail to come join his talented group?

Those questions require more pressing responses for Tony Alford than his future. But how he answers them will certainly help shape his career, and there’s no question it’s on an upward trajectory.

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Austin Ward

Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.