Michigan football to hire away Ohio State assistant coach

Ohio State football is losing a longtime assistant to Michigan.

A university spokesman confirmed running backs coach Tony Alford has left the program shortly after ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported Wednesday morning Alford is expected to take the same job with the Wolverines.

That came after FootballScoop.com reported Alford was a Michigan target.

An Akron native who played for Earle Bruce at Colorado State, Alford joined the Ohio State staff in 2015 when he was hired away from Notre Dame by Urban Meyer.

He coached a string of successful running backs, including Ezekiel Elliott, J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber and TreVeyon Henderson, during his time with the Buckeyes and was promoted to run-game coordinator in 2022 when he signed a contract extension that was set to expire earlier this year.

At Michigan, he would replace Mike Hart, the Wolverines’ all-time leading rusher who has been considered an up-and-coming coaching talent for the past decade but recently split with his alma mater.

Ironically, one of Alford’s new pupils in Ann Arbor will be Ohio’s reigning Mr. Football, Cincinnati Moeller running back Jordan Marshall.

Marshall’s surprise choice of Michigan almost exactly a year ago was seen as a major recruiting win for Hart over Alford and spawned speculation the Wolverines were going to raid the Buckeye State for talent in the class of 2024, but that never materialized.

Alford rallied to snag four-star prospect James Peoples from San Antonio but lost four-star prospect Jordan Lyle of Florida to the Miami Hurricanes just before National Signing Day in December.

This move comes a week after the Buckeyes began spring football practice, though none are scheduled for this week as Ohio State is on spring break. They will resume Tuesday.

Hart was at Michigan for three seasons and developed Blake Corum into one of the most productive players in Big Ten history.

Prior to that, he spent four seasons at Indiana and one at Syracuse.

Michigan’s staff will have a much different look this year after head coach Jim Harbaugh left to take over the Los Angeles Chargers and hired away three defensive assistants, including coordinator Jesse Minter and defensive backs coach Steve Clinkscale, who was seen as an ace recruiter, especially in Ohio.

Offensive coordinator/line coach Sherrone Moore was promoted to replace Harbaugh, and he replaced Minter with Wink Martindale, a long-time NFL assistant coach from Trotwood.

The Ohio State staff was already set to look different, too, as head coach Ryan Day hired Chip Kelly to coordinate the offense and coach Buckeye quarterbacks.

He also promoted James Laurinaitis to linebackers coach and hired Matt Guerrieri as safeties coach.

Alford’s replacement will inherit arguably the best running back duo in the country.

Henderson returns for his senior season after leading the Big Ten in rushing last season, and he will be joined by Quinshon Judkins, a two-time All-SEC performer at Mississippi.

Ohio State does not have a running back recruit yet for the 2025 class, but the Buckeye had offered more than a dozen according to 247Sports.

Ohio is home to a pair of four-star running back prospects in the class — Bo Jackson of Villa Angela-St. Joseph in Cleveland and Marquise Davis of Cleveland Heights — and Ohio State can be expected to sign multiple backs in this class with Henderson set to graduate and Judkins also eligible for the draft.

A coach working at Ohio State and Michigan is not unheard of.

Most recently, Day hired away defensive assistants Greg Mattison and Al Washington from Michigan when he was assembling his first OSU staff in 2019.

Ed Warriner also served as offensive line coach at Ohio State from 2012-16 and held the same position at Michigan from 2018-20.

Most notably, Bo Schembechler was an Ohio State assistant under Woody Hayes from 1958-62 then became head coach at Michigan in 1969, setting off the famed “10-Year War” between pupil and teacher that took the rivalry to another level of intensity in the 1970s.

Schembechler’s successor, Gary Moeller, was an Ohio State player and captain for Hayes.

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