An interesting story line in the 2020 season will be incoming transfer Trey Sermon at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes were in the unusual position this season of having an unstable running back situation. Master Teague and Marcus Crowley will be limping into the 2020 season, while Demario McCall will be working out of the H-back position.
Then Sermon entered the transfer portal and transferred to Ohio State.
Sermon will be entering his senior season after having played the previous three at Oklahoma. He had a standout sophomore season with 164 carries for 947 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018.
In 2019, things went south for Sermon. His workload was lifted and he only carried the ball 54 times. He ended the year with an ACL injury, but the writing was on the wall. He wasn’t happy with the way things worked out, so he entered the portal.
Ohio State needed a boost at running back, so they were happy to take him.
Sermon will be working alongside fellow transfer Justin Fields in the backfield. Depending on how his season goes, the transfer portal might turn out to be more of a net positive for Ryan Day than anyone would have thought.
What To Expect From Trey Sermon At Ohio State
Trey Sermon’s style
At a first glance, one might want to label Sermon a “one-cut back.” He will find holes in the line of scrimmage, make his cut, and once he has a full head of steam will make defenders miss.
But he’s actually more versatile than that. He has deceptive elusiveness, so he makes defenders miss in a number of ways. With his blend of agility and power, he can either sidestep defenders or stiff arm them.
He is very similar to J.K. Dobbins in that respect. Both are backs that appear to be one-cut backs, but are elusive enough to pose a threat in different situations.
Without The Ball In His Hands
At Oklahoma, Sermon was used as much more than just a runner. The Sooners have a standing reservation at the Heisman podium for their quarterbacks, so Sermon was more of a supporting character than Dobbins.
Oklahoma frequently used Sermon as a lead blocker on quarterback runs, a decoy in play action, or a pass protector.
Because of Oklahoma’s scheme, Sermon was asked to do more blocking than would normally be expected of a running back. In 2019, Jalen Hurts handled 42 percent of Oklahoma’s rushing attempts, helping the quarterback run game was priority number one.
Sermon’s lead blocking and pass protection is therefore well polished. He won’t be asked to do it as much at Ohio State, but he will be able to deliver when needed.
The only thing he didn’t do much at Oklahoma that he might be asked to do at Ohio State is to flex out wide.
Once Sermon gets past holes in the line of scrimmage, he is very difficult to tackle in the secondary. However, sometimes his vision is lacking and he gets taken down easily at the line.
Part of the reason his production lacked at Oklahoma last season was due to a season-ending ACL injury. The Buckeyes have one of the most banged-up running back rooms in the country, and Sermon just compounded it.
Overall Thoughts On Trey Sermon At Ohio State
Scores of talented running backs have come through Ohio State, yet Dobbins’ production outdid all of them. It’s unfair to expect the same production by any other player.
But, Sermon is about as close as the Buckeyes can expect to find.
Sermon won’t be able to match Dobbins’ workload. Dobbins career low carries in 2017 is still 30 more than Sermon’s career high. His whole career, Sermon has been a part of a rotation, and that trend will continue in his senior year.
With Teague and Crowley’s injuries, they won’t be able to contribute as much right away, so Sermon relieves the need there. Sermon will probably have to most carries out of the three, but won’t lead by that wide of a margin. McCall will also get some work in with the running backs, so Sermon won’t have a heavy workload.
Given Sermon’s versatility and blocking, he will be used to counter Teague’s powerful style. With his experience in pass protection, he will be a great third down or passing down option for the Buckeyes, especially if they want him to lead block on a quarterback draw.