Ohio State football and the recruiting battle for 4-star RB Dallan Hayden

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State doesn’t need a big splash at running back in 2022 after taking two top-100 players in 2021.

But it does need to land someone, and has already zeroed in on its options. One is Dallan Hayden.

WHO: 4-star running back who plays for Christian Brothers High School in Memphis, Tennessee.

SIZE: 5-foot-11, 195 pounds.

RANKING: The No. 22 running back in the class of 2022, No. 208 player.

THE BATTLE: James trimmed his list to four schools on New Year’s Day to the Buckeyes, Notre Dame, Oregon and Tennessee.

THE HOMESTATE FACTOR: The Volunteers are in the middle of a coaching transition so it’s not shocking that in the last full week of March they still don’t have a 2022 commit. There are five players rated as top-200 recruits from the state and quarterback Ty Simpson (Alabama) is the only one committed. Most of those players aren’t expected to stay home.

THE GEOGRAPHY: Memphis is 592 miles from Ohio State’s campus, an 8.5-hour drive.

THE OTHER CONTENDERS: Hayden took a self-guided visit earlier this month with his father and told cleveland.com’s Robert Fenbers that he loved it, calling the campus “a cool vibe.” He followed up that visit with a trip to Notre Dame and has plans to visit Oregon before making a decision. He’s also already taken unofficial visits to Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.

THE OSU NEED: There is a need to find a running back. It doesn’t have to be a five-star or top recruit — which is good given there’s only two of those are still undecided — or ready to play immediately. There are six players in the room right now with expected attrition coming before the Buckeyes take the field against Minnesota. There will need to be an addition before the 2022 season.

WHAT THIS GUY DOES: Hayden had a breakout season as a junior, running for 2,010 yards and 24 touchdowns on 234 carries. That included seven consecutive games with at least 200 rushing yards. Those numbers earned him Mr. Tennessee Football honors.

“It was a breakout year for sure,” Hayden told cleveland.com. ” A lot of people don’t know this, but that was my first full year at running back. My coach was running the ball more, so I just took over that running back role, and I think I’m just going to continue to get better.”

WILL THE BUCKEYES GET HIM?

Hayden’s two crystal balls favoring Tennessee are dated by now, coming in January 2019 and last September. Things are still wide open. He’s one of three running backs whom OSU is recruiting heavily. Which one ends up in Columbus might be the one who jumps first.

THE 2022 OHIO STATE RECRUITING CLASS BATTLES:

5-star defensive tackle Walter Nolen

5-star athlete Keon Sabb

5-star linebacker Shawn Murphy

5-star offensive tackle Zach Rice

5-star defensive end Enai White

4-star cornerback Jeadyn Luks

4-star defensive end Omari Abor

4-star wide receiver C.J. Williams

4-star offensive tackle Kiyaunta Goodwin

4-star linebacker Jalon Walker

4-star wide receiver Kaleb Brown

4-star safety Xavier Nwankpa

4-star defensive tackle Caden Curry

4-star defensive end Kenyatta Jackson

4-star offensive tackle Gunner Givens

4-star offensive tackle Addison Nichols

4-star wide receiver Kojo Antwi

4-star running back Nicholas Singleton

4-star offensive tackle Kam Dewberry

4-star running back Kaytron Allen

4-star offensive tackle Aamil Wagner

4-star guard Earnest Greene

4-star defensive tackle Christen Miller

4-star cornerback Austin Jordan

4-star defensive back Nick James

Get Ohio State Sugar Bowl champs & CFP gear: Check out shirts, hats and more merchandise commemorating Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl win over Clemson, as well as gear on the Buckeyes advancing to the College Football Playoff national championship game.

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