OSU’s Williams outruns expectations

COLUMBUS – He’s like the No. 5 or No. 6 seeded team that gets to the championship game and wins it.

Miyan Williams wasn’t Ohio State’s No. 1 priority when it was recruiting running backs for its 2020 recruiting class.

He wasn’t No. 2. Probably wasn’t No. 3 or No. 4. But he kept moving up the list as the guys ahead of him picked college destinations other than Ohio State.

When he became the only running back OSU signed that year, critics called it a recruiting failure that the Buckeyes couldn’t do better than just one 3-star running back.

You don’t hear that anymore.

He showed signs as a freshman that he had been underrated. He showed even more when he ran for 508 yards last season as TreVeyon Henderson’s back-up.

In Ohio State’s first five games this season, the 5-8, 225-pound redshirt sophomore has gained 497 yards and is averaging 7.8 yards per carry. He had a career game in last Saturday’s 49-10 win over Rutgers when he rushed for 189 yards and five touchdowns.

“You could see the ability, you could see the feet, you could see the quickness and the vision,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said about his first impression of Williams after he got to OSU.

It wasn’t like Williams was an unrecognized Picasso that somebody picked up for $20 at a garage sale. He rushed for 5,823 yards and 68 touchdowns at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati and had verbally committed to Iowa State when Ohio State’s recruiting efforts intensified.

But he was ranked the No. 627 recruit overall in 2020 and is by far the lowest ranked running back signed in the eight years Tony Alford has been Ohio State’s running backs coach.

“A lot of people said he’s not that highly recruited but we saw some things in him, just some sheer raw toughness, just the way he plays the game. He’s an Ohio kid and if we can recruit Ohio players that’s what we’re going to do,” Alford said earlier this week.

“We were on some other guys. He was always right there and we were always talking to him. But at the end of the day we didn’t know where it was going. And it kind of fell back into his lap a little bit and then he had some decisions to make.”

Just as Williams wasn’t OSU’s first choice, the Buckeyes might not have made the best first impression on him.

“When I first met him I was like, ‘What the hell is this? This guy doesn’t talk,’ ” Alford said. “He wasn’t very responsive to things that I was trying to say to him or do with him as far as calls and text messages and driving an hour and a half up here.

“So I was kind of going, ‘Maybe he doesn’t want to be recruited by us.’ But it really came down to I think he might have felt that I had slighted him a little bit.”

“I remember sitting him down in the weight room and saying, ‘I have to apologize to you. Whether or not you come to Ohio State I have to clear my chest here, I have to apologize to you because I had the wrong impression of you and I was wrong,’ ” he said.

Williams can be elusive. He had a 70-yard touchdown run against Rutgers and went 71 yards for a touchdown against Minnesota last season. But his calling card as a running back is his toughness.

“Miyan doesn’t give you much surface area to hit. He’s so strong. The lower half of his body is like hitting tree trunks. He does a really good job of speeding up into contact. He has an uncanny way of speeding up into contact. He’s got really good balance. He’s able to take shots and keep his balance,” Alford said.

“He’s a load. He’s 225 pounds. He’s a tough guy. There is nothing soft about that kid.”

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.