COLUMBUS — Watch TreVeyon Henderson move, and there’s little doubt the highly touted freshman running back has the goods as advertised.
But with his first college spring practices behind him, did he prove to the Ohio State coaches that he has what it takes to contribute, perhaps heavily, as a freshman this fall? Such as in the way J.K. Dobbins did in 2017, to make that step from high school to college and just keep right on running?
Of course, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson gave no immediate definitive answer, keeping in mind the running back stable that includes returning rushers Master Teague III, Marcus Crowley, Miyan Williams, Steele Chambers and another talented freshman in Evan Pryor. But Wilson did say there was a chance.
“As we go through the summer and if he continues to enhance and stay healthy, continues to get stronger from a durability standpoint,” Wilson said. “We did a fair amount of contact [in the spring], but I thought Coach [Ryan] Day was very, very smart in the back and forth of when it was tackle days and when it wasn’t; how much of it was shoulder pad practices, and how much was perimeter and all that.
“So I think our team had a lot of contact, I thought it was a physical spring, but I thought Ryan did a great job keeping the balance and keeping the guys fresh.”
Now the players are in the midst of a break, and are expected to crank up the offseason workouts with football performance coordinator Mickey Marotti and his staff the middle of May.
“What you’re trying to do during that period is not only get stronger, not only get faster, but you’re trying to get your body, trying to get your mind, trying to get your soul hard enough to be a great practice player every Tuesday, Wednesday [during the season],” Wilson said. “I think TreVeyon, as a young player, he’s going to be a talented enough to have a role. That role will be enhanced for all of these players we’re talking about with the durability, their dependability, if their body holds up.”
Whoa. Back up a couple of sentences. Your soul? That’s a coaching term never heard before.
“To come out there every day with the right kind of spirit to practice,” Wilson said. “You know what I’m saying. You need to always have a good soul. And its not the sole of their feet. They have a great soul internally to get your mind and body hard to play championship football.
“Great teams and great players are great practice teams, and they do it on Tuesday and Wednesdays. And what they’re getting ready to go through right now is getting themselves ready to be great Tuesday and Wednesday team, so that on Saturdays we can play the way our fans expect us to play.”
As for a couple of weeks ago, the spring game as designed this year was not meant to be a showcase for running backs, at least in the art of running the ball. Thud tackling, meaning just a tag or bump from a defender ends the play, is never going to accentuate the strengths of an elite back, one of which is the ability to sidestep and turn a would-be form tackle into a desperate reach by the defender.
Glimpses of Henderson from scrimmages earlier in the spring, however, showed he does have the strength to run through arm tackles, the wiggle to set them up and the quicks and the speed to burst into the open field.
“I thought TreVeyon was very good with the football, which most running backs are who are talented like him,” Wilson said. “But he really impressed me as a young player stepping up in pass pro, taking on some of our linebackers in the blitz pickup periods that we did, and he caught the ball – you saw that in the spring game [with five catches] — very well out of the backfield.
“For a young player, sometimes it takes a while to get very good at pass protection, to get very good at route running. For a young player, he handled some of those things very well starting out.”
Remember, the Hopewell, Va., native sat out his senior season in high school last year due to the pandemic. The Ohio State coaches had just highlights from his over-the-top sophomore and junior seasons to cling to as they started spring drills during which finally he went against live competition again.
“I hate to talk too much about the freshmen because there are a lot of sophomores and juniors and seniors that have made great strides,” Day said. “But I know that some of the new guys we like to find out about, and so, yeah, I think Trey really did a good job out there having not played football for a long time.
“He’s still learning and figuring it out, similar to the way J.K. didn’t play his senior year [at La Grange, Texas, after suffering an injury on the first play of that season]. He had to come in and kind of learn. So every time he’d get out there he was kind of getting more strong and figuring things out.”
It was the same with TreVeyon Henderson this spring.
“I think he has the respect of his teammates because of his approach, the way he lives his life on and off the field, his seriousness about the game,” Day said. “So we’re excited to see where this summer heads as we head into August.”