Running back has been one of Ohio’s most consistent positions over the last three years, but 2022 brings up some major questions for the first time since the 2019 season.
Ohio’s offense under former offensive coordinator and current head coach Tim Albin has always relied on a strong running game from both the running backs and quarterbacks, but it is time to focus on the backfield:
Only two of Ohio’s seven running backs from last season are gone, and although one of the losses won’t be a big deal, the other may be the single most significant loss of production on the roster.
That loss is De’Montre Tuggle, who is now with the Chicago Bears after three successful years in Athens. Across those three seasons, Tuggle totaled 1,838 yards on 287 carries and 24 rushing touchdowns and a pair of kick return touchdowns.
While he spent substantial time splitting carries during his first two seasons, Tuggle was Ohio’s primary running back in 2021. He was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season and his departure left a massive hole in Ohio’s offense.
Most of Ohio’s running back depth from 2021 will return this season. The group is headlined by O’Shaan Allison, who will presumably fill the number one role left open by Tuggle. Allison began his Ohio career with a strong season in 2019, in which he was Ohio’s leading rusher with 869 yards on 138 carries and six touchdowns.
Allison took a step back over the last two seasons, totaling just 87 carries across the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Whether that was due to his play or the emergence of Tuggle is not entirely clear, but the Bobcats will be hope that he can recapture his 2019 form.
Also returning are Nolan McCormick, Tyler Toledo, Sieh Bangura and Julian Ross. Bangura was the only one who had any carries last season, with 12 for 93 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The only new running back on Ohio’s roster isn’t really new at all. Bryce Kitrell is now listed at running back after spending the 2021 season as a linebacker, where he appeared in one game.
Thanks to the departure of Tuggle, running back is one of the more intriguing positions on Ohio’s roster. The program will be dealing with some real uncertainty for the first time in a few years.
Over the past three seasons, Tuggle and Allison accounted for 73.3% of the Bobcats’ non-quarterback carries. That means for the first time since 2018, they head into a season without a clear idea of who the top two running backs will be.
Ohio will need somebody else to step up in the backfield, especially since the loss of Tuggle is combined with the fact that Armani Rogers is also gone. With so many past producers in the running game gone, Albin faces a tough challenge to ensure Ohio remains a strong team on the ground.