COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football peeked into the NCAA transfer portal this winter in search of additional running back depth for a depleted group.
When they found Quinshon Judkins — who no one would classify as mere depth, even behind TreVeyon Henderson — Ryan Day and his coaching staff had to consider new parameters. The roster needed more running backs, but was it big enough for two proven No. 1 options?
Only two men could answer that question, and neither of them was Day.
“The first thing was talking to TreVeyon, and what are your thoughts?” Day said. “He was unbelievable ‘If you think it helps the team coach, then let’s do it.’
“And then talking to Quinshon — you know, TreVeyon is here and is coming back. And he said, ‘Well I’d love to play with him.’ … I just think that both of their approaches are that they can get each other better.”
Having combined for almost 5,500 yards and 63 touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry this far, and improvement sounds like anyone’s definition of elite.
Yet Day should know this theoretically explosive combination only works with the full buy-in of both backs.
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The last time OSU tried something akin to this, it did so minus that buy-in — which showed in the results. In 2018, with Day as co-offensive coordinator, the staff could not decide who to make the full-time starter between J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. Dobbins, revealed over time to be the more superior talent, admitted later he did not like the concept and could not get out of his own head.
One year before rushing for over 2,000 yards as a fringe Heisman Trophy candidate, he averaged a mere 4.6 yards per carry. Despite Dwayne Haskins’ prolific passing, the running game shortcomings held the offense back.
The 2024 scenario differs in several important ways, Primarily, both Henderson and Judkins have proven themselves among the best backs in the country. Either one projects as a likely first-team all-conference level player in any uniform. No one wastes any time debating which one will serve as a backup.
That made communication before the fact even more important. Henderson and Judkins on their own needed to recognize the wisdom in stepping back to make a leap forward.
While Henderson has yet to speak publicly on the topic, Judkins said the two had been in communication throughout their careers. After Judkins went into the portal, the conversation shifted.
“We’ve always been in contact and supporting each other throughout our collegiate careers,” Judkins said. “When I decided to come here, he was very excited.”
Similar running back shares are more common in the NFL, where teams must grind through an 18-week, 17-game schedule, followed by the playoffs. Ohio State foresees its own 16 or 17-game drive to a national championship. Quality depth at every position will be more important than ever.
“There’ll be a lot of carries to go around,” Day said.
Maybe, but there may be fewer carries than either back expected otherwise. So getting those conversations out of the way in January saved having to have them in November.
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