Michigan expected to hire Ohio State’s Tony Alford as running backs coach: Source

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Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford is expected to leave for the same job at Michigan, a Buckeyes program source confirmed to The Athletic. FootballScoop first reported that Michigan was targeting Alford.

The move comes after Michigan was unable to reach a contract extension with Mike Hart, who spent the past three seasons coaching running backs at his alma mater. By hiring Alford, Michigan would be replacing its career rushing leader with a coach from Ohio State, adding another twist to the heated rivalry between the Buckeyes and Wolverines.

Alford, a native of Akron, Ohio, spent the past nine years at Ohio State, coaching standout running backs such as Ezekiel Elliott, J.K. Dobbins and TreVeyon Henderson. He arrived at Ohio State after previous stops at Notre Dame, Louisville, Iowa State and Washington.

Hiring Alford would complete Michigan’s coaching staff under Sherrone Moore, who replaced Jim Harbaugh in January. As acting head coach, Moore led the Wolverines to a 30-24 victory against Ohio State in November, Michigan’s third consecutive win in the series. Moore was promoted after Harbaugh left for the Los Angeles Chargers and retained the rest of Michigan’s offensive staff, with Hart as the lone departure.

Hart was making $550,000 annually under the terms of his most recently disclosed contract. Alford, who also held the title of assistant head coach for offense, was earning $772,000 at Ohio State, which hired UCLA coach Chip Kelly as its offensive coordinator in February.

What this means for Michigan

Shortly after he replaced Urban Meyer, Ryan Day fired a shot across Michigan’s bow by hiring Greg Mattison and Al Washington to join his defensive staff. In his first months as Michigan’s head coach, Moore is returning the favor by hiring a well-regarded running backs coach from Columbus.

It wasn’t easy for Michigan to say goodbye to Hart, one of the program’s all-time great players. Hart joined Michigan’s staff in 2021 and was part of three consecutive Big Ten championships, coaching Blake Corum during his record-setting career. Hart has said he aspires to be a head coach, and Michigan wasn’t able to work out his return as running backs coach under Moore. If Michigan had to move on from Hart, landing a coach from Ohio State is the next best thing.

Hart recruited Jordan Marshall, a top-100 prospect from Ohio in the Class of 2024, but Michigan’s running back recruiting was hit and miss in recent cycles. With deep ties in Ohio and the Midwest, Alford should strengthen Michigan’s recruiting presence while adding Big Ten experience to a staff that’s undergoing a major transition. — Austin Meek, Michigan beat writer

How does Alford leaving impact Ohio State?

It seems like every time the Buckeyes have their staff set, something else happens. And this one surprised many.

Alford, who has been at Ohio State since 2015, isn’t just leaving for another job. He’s taking a lateral move to Ohio State’s rival. If the rivalry needed any juice added to it after the departure of Jim Harbaugh, well, here it is. Alford’s return to Columbus on Nov. 30 will be a big one.

Right now, the Buckeyes are in the middle of spring practice and don’t have a position coach for what’s expected to be one of the best units in the country with Henderson returning and Ole Miss transfer Quinshon Judkins stepping in alongside him.

They have plenty of experience in college already, although Judkins is trying to get adjusted to a new team and both are now adapting to the offense under Kelly. Ohio State can surely navigate the spring for now, as it has coaches who can help. Day can help more with running backs because he’s no longer sticking his head in the quarterbacks room as much, Kelly has a strong run game background and run game coordinator and offensive line coach Justin Frye is also still in place.

Ohio State is currently on spring break and will resume practice on Tuesday morning, so it has some time to figure out a plan for what’s next. — Cameron Teague Robinson, Ohio State beat writer

Required reading

(Photo: Adam Cairns / Columbus Dispatch / USA Today Network)

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