With Master Teague returning from an offseason Achilles injury and JK Dobbins running for the Ravens in the NFL, there might not be a more intriguing piece of Ohio State’s offense than Oklahoma transfer Trey Sermon.
A career 2,076-yard, 22-touchdown rusher, Sermon arrived in Columbus this fall – after a very long offseason – as one of only a handful of new pieces for a dangerous and experienced Buckeyes offense. While Teague is again healthy and will be part of the Ohio State running back rotation, Sermon promises to be a featured player in the Buckeye attack.
Sermon hasn’t ever been asked to carry the load for a program during his college career. But he’s capable if called upon. Just ask Sermon’s high school coach Billy Shackelford, who still marvels at what Sermon did the second game of his junior season for Sprayberry High School.
A defender hit Sermon in the back with his helmet and Sermon felt a twinge. He thought it was a strain. Stretch and move on. Sermon finished the game with 200-plus yards and led Sprayberry to its first win of the season.
A trip to the doctor did not revel anything serious on first inspection. So, Sermon played again the next week. Another game, another 200-yard performance in a victory.
Then the news: The hit he suffered in Week 2 had chipped a bone in his back. Yep, Sermon essentially played two games with a broken back and ran for a combined 400 yards in those wins.
“He loved to play,” Shackelford told 247Sports in 2018. “He played with a broken back and was still the best player on the field.”
Sermon has been effective fighting through injuries in his career, and he’s coming off a torn LCL in his knee that cost him the final five games of the 2019 season. Thanks to a long offseason, Sermon is coming into the 2020 campaign feeling like the prospect who ranked as the No. 191 overall player in the 2018 class, per the 247Sports Composite.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt in my entire career,” Sermon said earlier this month.
That’s a huge boon for the Buckeye offense. Sermon has averaged 6.1 yards per carry throughout his career, including 7.1 yards per tote a season ago before his injury. He’s also by far the most experienced back in the room with Dobbins departing. Teague had a strong sophomore season (789 yards, 4 TDs, 5.8 ypc) but nobody else on the roster has more than 25 career carries.
Sermon, a senior, will be an experienced anchor in the room.
He’s been excellent when given a chance. Sermon started 12 games as a sophomore for Oklahoma in 2018, earning a 90.8 PFF College grade that season. That was the fifth-best grade in the country, ranking behind only Jonathan Taylor and David Montgomery among those backs with 200-plus snaps that season. Yep, he was better than Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, D’Andre Swift and a host of other stars.
Sermon hopes to continue both that level of production and Ohio State tradition while in Columbus.
“This is a big-time program, and there’s always great running backs here, such as J.K. (Dobbins) and Zeke (Elliott),” Sermon said earlier this month. “So, it was a good opportunity when I found out there was an opening here and I just wanted to take advantage of it and be able to be on this team and help this team.”