COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s not often that a 9-yard run on the first play of the game catches your attention. But that was the case Saturday afternoon.
Ohio State began its 35-7 win over Youngstown State with a handoff to third-year running back TreVeyon Henderson, who took the ball from quarterback Kyle McCord and hit the hole right away.
Henderson has sometimes been known for his indecisiveness in the backfield, but he didn’t hesitate on this play. Instead, he showed off the acceleration that made him so effective as a freshman in 2021. He ran by two defenders and through another one before he was pulled down by his jersey, just before the first down marker.
His numbers weren’t gaudy on Saturday — 56 yards rushing with two touchdowns while catching two passes for 18 years. But he passed the eye test. For the second straight week, Henderson looked angry when he was running the ball. In a good way.
He hit holes hard and accelerated, and if he couldn’t beat somebody with his agility or speed, he tried to run through the defender. It’s the type of play we haven’t often seen from him since his freshman season.
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A healthy Henderson gives this offense another dimension that will complement what should be an explosive passing attack.
“Look at how fast he is when he gets to the edge, it has a chance to go,” coach Ryan Day said.
There was a sequence of plays in the second quarter that showcased Henderson’s importance to this team. On 1st-and-10, after quarterback Devin Brown converted a fourth-down pass, Henderson ran for a 2-yard gain. This was no normal 2 yards, though. He ran to the right side of the line and hurdled a potential tackler. He bounced up and yelled, pumping his team up.
Three plays later, he got the ball on second-and-10 and ran 17 yards for an apparent touchdown — but the play was called back for illegal hands to the face by left tackle Josh Simmons. Two snaps later, Ohio State went back to Henderson and he scored from 13 yards out (after an initial fumble call was overturned).
Each of those plays had something in common — Henderson doesn’t seem to be hesitating. That’s growth. He struggled in that area even when he was healthy last year.
“He was running downhill when he had the opportunity,” Day said. “That was a great step. I was very impressed by that.”
Playing against Power 5 competition will make those runs more difficult, but the power he’s showing is encouraging. He looks fresh, too.
“Having him healthy is a home run threat at any point in the game,” Day said.
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Ohio State’s offense is a work in progress, from the quarterback battle between Kyle McCord and Brown to the three new offensive linemen and even the coaching staff adjusting to the new running clock rule. There’s a lot of “new” for an offense that returns some of the best playmakers in the country.
As Ohio State works through the growing pains at those positions, a healthy Henderson can be as important as the receiving duo of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.
There was a difference in Ohio State’s game plan on Saturday — the Buckeyes clearly wanted to get the ball in the hands of their playmakers. Harrison and Egbuka had 22 targets combined. Henderson had five carries but also caught two screen passes, and it’s clear he will be a big part of the plan moving forward.
“We have to keep trying to find ways to get him the ball, running the ball, but also out in space,” Day said.
The staff will have to balance its desire to lean on Henderson while also rotating the other backs — Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams — to keep everybody fresh.
Still, Henderson is the guy. He’s a difference-maker who provides the type of big-play ability that not many backs in the country possess.
He makes everybody’s job easier.
“A healthy TreVeyon Henderson is scary,” McCord said. “He showed flashes of it last year and then this year, with him getting healthy, you see how electric he is. Any way we can get the ball in Trey’s hands is a win for the Buckeyes.”
(Photo: Lauren Leigh Bacho / Getty Images)