As the football world reels from the seismic shift of Tony Alford’s departure from Ohio State to arch-rival Michigan, Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day finds himself on a mission to fill one of the most crucial coaching positions in his program: the running backs coach. With the departure of Alford, Day faces the daunting task of finding the right fit to continue the tradition of excellence in the Buckeyes’ running game.

Robert Gillespie

Among the top targets dominating discussions is Robert Gillespie, the current running backs coach at Alabama. Gillespie boasts an impressive coaching resume, with a career spanning across prominent college football programs. Having served under the tutelage of legendary coach Nick Saban since 2021, Gillespie’s expertise and extensive experience of 17 years in coaching running backs make him a prime candidate for the position. His strong ties in the South also offer a valuable advantage in recruiting, a crucial aspect of any college football program. However, the challenge lies in luring him away from the allure of Tuscaloosa, where he currently enjoys a lucrative deal with the Crimson Tide.

Deland McCullough

Another compelling contender for the role is Deland McCullough, the current Notre Dame running backs coach. McCullough’s connection with Ryan Day dates back to their shared involvement in recruiting McCullough’s son while he was the running back’s coach with the Kansas City Chiefs. McCullough brings a blend of college and NFL coaching experience, having coached running backs at Indiana and USC before his stint in the NFL with the Chiefs. His recent elevation to Associate Head Coach at Notre Dame reflects his growing prominence in the coaching ranks, albeit potentially making him a costly acquisition for Ohio State.

Stan Drayton

A familiar face in the Buckeye Nation, Stan Drayton, emerges as a compelling option. The Cleveland native boasts an illustrious coaching career, notably serving as the running backs coach during Urban Meyer’s tenure from 2012 to 2014. Drayton’s pivotal role in recruiting and developing talents like Ezekiel Elliott underscores his credentials. Despite his current head coaching role at Temple, speculation looms over his potential return to his roots in Ohio, should the opportunity arise.

Mike Hart

In a surprising twist, former Michigan running backs coach Mike Hart enters the conversation. Hart’s tenure with the Wolverines, coupled with his success in the Big Ten, adds intrigue to his candidacy. However, questions linger regarding his willingness to cross enemy lines and join the Buckeyes’ coaching staff, especially considering his deep-rooted ties to Ann Arbor.

Pepe Pearson

Amidst the prominent names, a sleeper candidate emerges in the form of Pepe Pearson, a former Ohio State running back turned coach. Pearson’s extensive coaching experience, coupled with his association with Buckeye legend Eddie George, positions him as a dark horse contender for the role.

Duce Staley

Lastly, Duce Staley, a seasoned NFL coach, presents an unconventional yet intriguing option. Staley’s tenure with both Ryan Day and Chip Kelly in Philadelphia adds a unique dimension to his candidacy. While his lack of college coaching experience poses a potential hurdle, his stellar reputation and NFL pedigree could compensate for this deficiency.

As Ryan Day navigates through the array of options, each candidate brings a distinct set of qualities and experiences to the table. Ultimately, the selection of the next running backs coach will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Ohio State football, as the Buckeyes aim to maintain their status as perennial contenders on the gridiron.