When TreVeyon Henderson burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2021, visions of the next great running back in Ohio State’s storied history at the position were rampant throughout a fan base accustomed to watching game-breakers in the Buckeyes’ offensive backfield.
Henderson finished his debut season with 1,248 rushing yards, the second most in program history from a freshman, while breaking the school record for total touchdowns by a freshman with 19 scores. More was expected of him entering his sophomore season a year ago, but that encore performance never materialized after a fractured sesamoid bone in his foot in a week three win over Toldeo severely diminished his dynamic abilities in a loaded Ohio State offense.
Although he went on to play five more games following the injury, it was clear — sometimes painfully — to see he was not the same back that commanded the attention of defensive coaching staffs around the conference the year prior. Henderson rushed just 11 times for 19 yards in the penultimate regular season game at Maryland before missing both the Michigan and Peach Bowl games to end his season after the decision was made to shut him down.
Offseason surgery to repair the bone has forced Henderson to miss spring practice, but in speaking with the media last week for the first time since the surgery, Henderson made it clear he’s back to feeling like he did prior to the injury.
“After that (injury), I never felt like myself again,” Henderson said. “I’m finally able to start feeling like that again, to get that confidence back, and get going again … That’s the bone that you need to be able to push off with your foot. Basically, I couldn’t push off all last season. Every time I tried to push off, I was basically refracturing that bone. And then I tore some ligaments and tendons, too, so my foot was all beat up.”
How he managed to play at all following the initial fracture was an act of God, Henderson said, noting he rarely practiced in the week leading up to games. There was also a significant mental hurdle he had to overcome during the games as he wondered whether or not he could do the things he needed in order to help his team on the field.
“I was just thinking about it all the time,” he said. “Going into the game, you don’t want to be thinking all the time. You just want to go out there and do it.”
According to Henderson, he’s been ahead of his projected recovery time “for a while now” and is running full speed this spring, albeit in side work. When asked if he’s physically ready to play now, Henderson didn’t hesitate to say he’d be practicing with his team if it weren’t for the abundance of precaution he and the training staff are practicing to ensure he gets to the fall without a setback.
In the meantime, there have been plenty of repetitions to go around for the other backs in what running backs coach Tony Alford said is the deepest room he’s ever had when everyone is healthy. Miyan Williams’s return for another season will again give Alford a second starting back capable of shouldering a large workload if needed, and both Chip Trayanum and Dallan Hayden showed last season they can make an impact when given the opportunity. Evan Pryor, who is also working his way back from injury after tearing his patellar tendon in camp last season, has also flashed plenty of playmaking ability in his limited snaps.
How Alford plans to approach the crowded backfield this season remains to be seen, although it’s a problem any position coach would like to have. For now, Alford isn’t worried about breaking down the carries split, but rather how each individual is getting better this spring.
“We’ll find that out as we get closer to the fall,” Alford said. “Right now, I’m just trying to build depth because we want guys who are three-down players and can do everything.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.