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Key Ohio State assistant joins Michigan staff with Mike Hart not retained as running backs coach

The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has added another intriguing layer with the Wolverines hiring Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford to the same position with run-game coordinator responsibilities. Alford replaces Mike Hart, who will not return to UM’s staff under first-year coach Sherrone Moore.

“Tony is an elite running backs coach who is an outstanding mentor and example for young men in all aspects of football and life,” said Moore in a statement. “I know that he will have a profound impact on our running back room and football program. We are excited to have Tony and his wife, Trina, and their boys join the Michigan Football Family.”

Alford isn’t just any position coach, either. He has been a mainstay at Ohio State since landing with the program in 2015, having served under both Urban Meyer and Ryan Day, and helped develop some of the top running back rooms in college football. Under Alford’s watch, four Ohio State running backs have landed in the NFL Draft, with Miyan Williams likely to join the list this spring. And the Buckeyes’ 2024 running back room — featuring former No. 1 running back recruit TreVeyon Henderson and Ole Miss transfer Quinshon Judkins — could have been Alford’s best yet in Columbus, Ohio. 

Instead, Alford is sliding over to the other side of a bitter rivalry to join Moore’s staff. The Wolverines have boasted one of the nation’s elite running back rooms of their own over the past several years, headlined by unanimous All-American and College Football Playoff National Championship MVP Blake Corum. 

Touted running back Donovan Edwards returns to school in 2024 with senior Kalel Mullings providing depth. The Wolverines also added four-star recruit Jordan Marshall, the No. 12 running back in the Class of 2024. 

While Michigan promoted Moore internally, the staff has seen several new additions. Veteran NFL defensive coordinator Wink Martindale leads a brand new defensive staff after the bulk of assistants followed former coach Jim Harbaugh to the NFL. However, Alford will join tight ends coach Steve Casula as the only new additions on offense. 

Alford’s track record

Under Alford’s watch, Ohio State’s running backs room has consistently been one of the best in college football. He joined a national championship room led by Ezekiel Elliott and coached him to All-America honors and Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year honors in the Big Ten. J.K. Dobbins was perhaps his prize pupil, reaching 1,000 yards in all three of his seasons and clearing 2,000 in 2019. 

Over his first six full years at Ohio State — pandemic season aside — he produced six 1,000-yard running backs. The Buckeyes failed to reach the mark over the past two seasons, but injuries and splitting carries played a far larger role. Henderson finished just shy with 926 yards rushing in just 10 games. 

In addition to running backs coach, Alford served as run game coordinator and assistant head coach for offense under Day. 

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