COLUMBUS — Timing was everything for Ohio State and Trey Sermon.
At least the second time around.
The Buckeyes weren’t able to land Sermon during his initial recruitment a few years ago, coming up short when the talented tailback chose Oklahoma and then actually scored his first career touchdown against them in the Horseshoe. But the stars aligned this spring with Sermon looking for a new home as a graduate transfer and Ohio State in need of an experienced rusher to bolster a thin depth chart in the backfield, providing a perfect match for both parties that they made official on Sunday.
“I just believe it’s the best situation for me,” Sermon told Lettermen Row. “I know that I have the opportunity to play there considering the depth, and I had a relationship with [running backs coach Tony] Alford during my recruiting process coming out of high school. He was a great guy then, and I just feel like I connected well with him.
“I know I’m going to have to go in and compete for the job, but I feel like it’s the best situation for me to go into now.”
From his familiarity with the program and offense to the potential playing time available and the chance to keep competing for championships, it was hard from the outside to find any flaws in a pairing for Sermon and the Buckeyes. Clearly that was the case for the graduate transfer and his new coaching staff as well, and the process didn’t take long once he made the choice to enter the portal and get recruited again.
Now that the decision is made, Lettermen Row is diving into what all it means for both Sermon and the Buckeyes once football resumes.
Ohio State bolsters depth, experience with Trey Sermon
Even if the Buckeyes had been completely healthy at the position, they were still going to be inexperienced this season at running back. But injuries were already complicating the situation for Ohio State during the abbreviated camp this month, making it even more pressing for the program to add somebody with immediate eligibility and proven success at the highest level.
Trey Sermon was the right guy at the right time for the Buckeyes, who now have somebody with three years of development under his belt, more than 2,000 yards rushing in his career and 25 touchdowns on his resumé. The veteran presence alone is invaluable for Ohio State, particularly if the torn Achilles suffered by Master Teague is an issue that drags into the season.
Teague was productive as the top backup to J.K. Dobbins, but he faded late last year against top-flight defenses and hasn’t been called on in truly meaningful moments yet in his career. Behind him, Marcus Crowley was recovering from a knee injury and was going to miss all of spring camp, leaving Steele Chambers as the only healthy running back on scholarship until Miyan Williams arrived in the summer. Ohio State still could have pieced together a solid ground game thanks to the dynamic skill-position players elsewhere on the roster and the presence of Justin Fields at quarterback. If nothing else, Sermon adds to the depth — but he might change the equation in a much bigger way for the Buckeyes.
Tony Alford stays on recruiting roll for Buckeyes
There was always something a little odd about anybody questioning Tony Alford’s recruiting prowess during a season where J.K. Dobbins was rushing for 2,000 yards and both of his backups were generating buzz about their bright futures.
Yes, Ohio State had two targets it believed to be committed back out over the summer, leaving the program in a bit of a jam before landing Miyan Williams late in the cycle. But Alford has proven on numerous occasions that he can form meaningful relationships with recruits, maximize their talents when they arrive on campus and do everything the Buckeyes need in his role leading the running backs. And Alford is doing it again with Sermon reflecting back on his previous experiences with the veteran assistant to reunite several years later while the Buckeyes are also rolling on the trail with four-star Evan Pryor already committed and top-ranked tailback TreVeyon Henderson calling them his current leader.
The Buckeyes have far too much to sell for last year to be anything but an aberration. Alford is leaving no doubt that he hasn’t lost his touch.
Trey Sermon gets to prove himself after injury
His Oklahoma career didn’t end on the note Trey Sermon envisioned thanks in part to an LCL injury last season. But Sermon is ahead of schedule in his recovery, and he should be cleared for full activity in time for his arrival at Ohio State after his graduation in May — assuming, of course, that campus is open by then.
Sermon finished with just 54 rushing attempts and four starts for the Sooners last year. But on a per-carry basis, he was on pace for the most productive season of his career, averaging more than 7 yards per attempt and adding five more touchdowns to his resumé.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Sermon told Lettermen Row. “I’ve made a lot of progress, and I met with the doctor last week and he said I’ll be cleared in a month instead of late-May. So, I mean, it was my LCL, a little setback.
“But having my injury, I had a lot of time to think about my future and how I should go about things. That’s why I came to this decision.”
Ryan Day makes most of transfer portal again
The transfer portal is not the way Ryan Day would prefer to build his roster. The development is up to another program, there’s no guarantee that the right fit will be available at the right time and success is obviously not guaranteed.
But when Day needed a quarterback, Justin Fields was on the market. When the Buckeyes needed a veteran to plug into the offensive line, Jonah Jackson was preparing to transfer as a graduate. And with the depth taking a hit at running back this spring, Trey Sermon popped into the portal ready to find his next challenge.
Obviously Day and the Buckeyes are doing their part on the recruiting trail with the best class in the country currently in the works for the 2021 cycle. But managing the roster in the Transfer Portal Era is critical to the success of a championship program, and there is probably nobody any better at that right now than Day.