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Why did Trey Sermon transfer from Oklahoma to Ohio State?

Trey Sermon’s transfer from Oklahoma to Ohio State looked remarkably underwhelming for a while. Then Sermon ran for 331 yards in a Big Ten Championship victory over Northwestern. 

In those impressive carries, Sermon proved both that OSU had made the right call in bringing him onboard and that Sermon had nailed the choice to bet on himself finding more playing time elsewhere. He was a star early on at Oklahoma, but his shine was lost by the time he was hurt a year ago before deciding to leave the program. But he landed on one of the country’s best teams with a spot in the College Football Playoff, thanks in large part to his maneuver. 

Here’s what you need to know about Sermon’s timeline, from dominating early at Oklahoma to making the move to Ohio State.

MORE: Trey Sermon creates own legend in Big Ten Championship

Trey Sermon Oklahoma stats

Year Rushing attempts Rushing yards Rushing TDs Receptions Receiving yards Receiving TDs
2017 121 744 5 16 139 2
2018 164 947 13 12 181 0
2019 54 385 4 8 71 1

Sermon earned the Big 12’s Offensive Freshman of the Year honors in 2017. He actually scored his first career touchdown at Ohio Stadium on a pass from Baker Mayfield against the Buckeyes.

Sermon was even more effective as a sophomore, joining Kyler Murray in the backfield en route to double-digit scores. But Sermon fell out of favor for playing time early in the 2019 season before a knee injury cut his junior year short. 

“Trey did a tremendous job here” OU head coach Lincoln Riley said in April. “I mean, he was a great Sooner. A really, really good teammate. Had some, obviously, some really, really nice moments here throughout his career. So, loved the three years we had with him.”

Why did Trey Sermon transfer from Oklahoma to Ohio State?

The simple answer for Sermon’s general desire to transfer is playing time. Kennedy Brooks had taken control of the OU backfield in 2019, especially after Sermon’s injury. Having graduated, Sermon had a guaranteed transfer setup in which he wouldn’t have to sit out a season.

Sermon’s timing for seeking a transfer wound up being convenient for Ohio State. In spring ball, OSU running back Master Teague suffered a knee injury which at the time was said could keep him out up to six months. There was suddenly opportunity in Columbus. 

“This is a big time program, and I mean there are always great running backs coming through here such as J.K. (Dobbins) and Zeke (Elliott),” Sermon told the Dayton Daily News. “So it was a good opportunity once I found out there was an opening I just wanted to take advantage of it and be a part of this team.”

Sermon also had a connection to Ohio State, which had recruited him some in high school as the No. 12 running back in the country in 2017. His main recruiter was OSU running backs coach Tony Alford, who still holds that position for the Buckeyes. 

When the chance to transfer to Ohio State arose, Sermon was able to rekindle his relationship with Alford.

“He started recruiting me out of high school,” Sermon told the Dayton Daily News. “Although I went to Oklahoma and I had my years there, I remember after we played them we talked a little bit after the game and he was just checking into how I was doing so it’s like now once we got to this point he picked up where we left off. It was just unique because coach Alford is such a genuine guy and all the players he comes in contact with he really cares about, and I feel like that was just the thing that stuck out the most.”

The decision all culminated on Dec. 19 in the Big Ten Championship. Sermon had run for 344 yards on the season entering the game. He left it with another 331 yards, a Big Ten title game record. 

“I just want to thank my teammates and my coaches, man, just motivated me and just welcomed me into the brotherhood, man,” Sermon said that day, per 247Sports. “I’m just so appreciative, man, and glory to God.”

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