Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott finished his sophomore campaign with arguably the greatest three-game run in school history.
The St. Louis native rattled off 696 yards rushing in the Buckeyes’ three postseason games en route to a national title.
Now, Elliott is facing a new challenge that isn’t a Badger, a Duck or the Crimson Tide.
Elliott has sat out the majority of spring practice after undergoing offseason surgery on his left wrist and, as of Thursday, he said he was out for six more weeks.
Running backs coach Tony Alford said even though Elliott is not participating in contact drills, being engaged in practice is still important.
“He is still doing a lot of work. The mental reps are big. Just because you had some success in the past, there’s still opportunities to grow and learn and see things,” Alford said Thursday. “The more mental reps can be very vital just as game repetition.”
As for how he feels, Elliott said the pain in the wrist is still noticeable, but is progressing.
“I get my cast off Monday and now it’s just a process of getting that mobility back, and after six weeks, I’ll be full go,” Elliott said. “I can feel it getting better, but right now it’s a little small, weak and I got a little bit of pain here and there.”
While it’s been almost three months since he walked off the field at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, after the College Football Playoff National Championship, Elliott is still in the running for an athletic award. The Buckeyes’ leading rusher is a finalist for the 85th Amateur Athletic Union Sullivan Award, which “honors the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States,” according to its website.
The rising-junior back said he is “blessed and thankful” for being named a finalist and added that he is set to fly to the New York Athletic Club on April 19 for the announcement of the winner.
“At first, I didn’t really know what the Sullivan Award was,” Elliott said. “But after researching it, it’s a very honorable award. There’s a lot of big names on it.”
Past winners include the likes of Bill Walton, Michael Phelps and Tim Tebow, who was the last American football player to win the award in 2007.
Elliott’s competition for the award include Duke basketball player Jahlil Okafor and Olympic gold medalist swimmer Katie Ledecky among others.
As far as being a Buckeye, Alford said he has known Elliott since recruiting him while a coach at Notre Dame and added he is encouraged by Elliott’s intensity at practice.
“The one thing you love about Zeke is he is hungry. He wants to play. It’s killing him not to play now. He is a high-energy guy,” Alford said. “For me, it’s cool because I got the opportunity to recruit him out of high school so I have known him and his family for a long time.”
With Elliott not in the huddle throughout spring practice, Elliott said he has made it a point of emphasis to not let the younger players earning reps get too comfortable.
“We got a lot of great team leaders and one thing you won’t see at Ohio State is complacency,” Elliott said. “What spring basically has been is a grind. A time for the younger guys and inexperienced guys to get their reps so they can go out there and play on Saturdays next year.”
The Buckeyes are set to play the annual Spring Game at Ohio Stadium on April 18 before opening the 2015 season on the road against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., on Sept. 7.