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Running backs coach Tony Alford made one of the bolder moves of the college football offseason last week, leaving Ohio State for Big Ten arch-rival Michigan.

Why would Alford leave Ohio State for the same position just a few hours north of Columbus?

On the latest edition of “The No. 1 College Football Show with RJ Young,” host RJ Young opined that Alford’s departure could be about respect.

“So, why would Tony Alford want to go to Michigan? Well, perhaps it’s got a little bit to do with pay,” Young said. “Tony Alford was the 122nd highest-paid assistant coach in the country, according to USA Today. I found that interesting because that means that he made $100,000 less give or take than Dell McGee, who was the running backs coach at Georgia. Also, [he] made considerably less than Carnell Williams, who was the running backs coach at Auburn, making $900,000, who’s now the running backs coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. … Larry Johnson Sr. coaches defensive line at Ohio State, maybe the most important position coach in all of football. The reason I say that is Larry Johnson Sr. made more money to coach defensive line than Sherrone Moore did to coach offensive line, call plays and be the interim head coach at Michigan. One was ranked 38th in the country among the highest-paid assistants; the other was ranked 39th. … 

“If you’re Tony Alford, you’re going, ‘wait, am I not the same sort of legend? Have you seen the kind of tailbacks that I have helped bring to Ohio State and the production that they have?’ When the offense wasn’t really going well, the one thing that did seem to function — apart from Marvin Harrison Jr. — was the running back room.”

Alford had been on Ohio State’s coaching staff since 2015, serving as its assistant head coach and running backs coach under both current head coach Ryan Day and former head coach and now FOX Sports college football analyst Urban Meyer. Prior to his time at Ohio State, Alford was on Notre Dame‘s coaching staff from 2009-14.

Three-time Pro Bowler Ezekiel Elliott and J.K. Dobbins — who ran for 805 yards and nine touchdowns on 6 yards per carry in his 2020 rookie campaign — are among the NFL running backs to come out of Ohio State under Alford.

Moving forward, lead running back TreyVeyon Henderson is returning to Ohio State for his senior season, while Miyan Williams is a year removed from rushing for 825 yards and 14 touchdowns. In that same 2022 season, freshman Dallan Hayden rushed for 553 yards. Meanwhile, Ohio State got former Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins — who has averaged 1,362.5 rushing yards and 15.5 touchdowns on 5 yards per carry over his first two collegiate seasons — to transfer to Columbus.

Young discussed potential candidates to replace Alford at Ohio State — including someone with ties to new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.

“At the top of my list, I don’t know why you wouldn’t go looking at DeMarco Murray,” Young said. “Given what DeMarco has been able to do at Oklahoma, given his pedigree as a running back both at Oklahoma and in the NFL, [it] feels like if nothing else, DeMarco Murray could go get paid, either at Oklahoma or Ohio State. … Other guys that I got on the list [is] Alabama running backs coach Robert Gillespie … you can see what he’s been able to do with Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams, on down the line as the running backs coach at Alabama.

Who will replace Tony Alford as Ohio State running backs coach?

“I also think you take a look at another Oklahoma tailback in Tashard Choice, who ended up at Texas as running backs coach. Perhaps you take a look at him and say ‘hey, look, we know what that man did just last year with Jonathan Brooks and how it didn’t really hurt them all that much to lose that sort of production because they had CJ Baxter; that’s what you want to have.”

Regarding Murray, the former running back and three-time Pro Bowler played for Kelly in 2015 when the latter was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Murray was the running backs coach for Arizona in 2019 and has been Oklahoma’s running backs coach since 2020.

The Buckeyes are coming off their third consecutive 11-2 campaign and have been among the most active teams in the sport in the transfer portal. Outside of Judkins, Ohio State has also added former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard and former Alabama center Seth McLaughlin to its offense, while also getting former Alabama defensive back Caleb Downs

Ohio State’s lively offseason comes against the backdrop of a loss to Michigan for a third consecutive season, with the Wolverines going on to win the College Football Playoff National Championship; Michigan is now led by Moore, who was promoted to head coach after Jim Harbaugh left Ann Arbor to be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.

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