Photo by Tony Gerdeman
You ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford asks that of all of his running backs (not really) before he whacks them with a bat like the one pictured above. He just...likes the sound of it.
Alford isn't joking around in practice, however, as he swings the bat in drills in order for his players to work on ball security. He loves it, but not all of his players share his same fondness.
"Those things hurt," running back Demario McCall said smiling. "That’s something Coach Meyer brought to practice. When we get the ball he wants us to tuck and squeeze it so as they swing the bat they’re swinging at the ball. That’s what the defense is going to do, swipe at the ball."
Tony Alford is the hero the Ohio State running backs deserve, and also the one that they need right now. A year ago, the Buckeye running backs lost just two fumbles, so clearly the Batman has had a positive effect.
"We use it with all the skill players," Alford said of the bats. "It shows up more with me because I have it, it’s one of our staples, it’s what we do. That’s something we harp on, and knock on wood we’ve been pretty good thus far this spring with that. I think Mike (Weber) had three fumbles last year if I remember right. That’s three too many."
These are positive results that have turned theory to testimony. The bat has everybody trying to fly on the straight and narrow, and don't expect it to go away any time soon.
"I like to swing at them," Alford said laughing. "I like it. No really, if I take that bat and I hit that ball and you’re not carrying it properly, the ball is coming out. It’s just the emphasis we have on ball security. Every now and then by accident I hit them in the head. I would never do that intentionally. I might hit them harder if I don’t like them. I hit Demario really hard. He’s my guy. I shouldn’t say something like that. That’s really awful."
The swings aren't lost on McCall either.
"I'm going to start hiding them," he said of the bats.
"Guess what," Alford said. "He can hide one, but I know where the rest of them are at. There’s about five of them."
Where does he get those wonderful toys? He's not talking. He's also not slowing down. The results weren't what he wanted them to be a year ago, and Alford and his players are out to make sure that it doesn't happen again.
"You can’t put the ball on the ground," he said. "You just can’t do it. You go back to the Clemson game and Mike had a couple. That’s just not acceptable and that’s my fault. I’ve got to do a better job. Mike was pretty good on the year up until the end. That’s on me, I’ve got to do a better job of coaching it, and I am."
So don't expect the bats to be silenced now or in the future. As long as there are footballs to be whacked, Alford will be out there swinging away.
Not every position coach relies on bats, however.
Some men just want to watch the world burn.