From the outside, there doesn’t appear to be too many snaps available for Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins.
After all, this is an OSU offense that hasn’t had carries for a backup running back since 2014, and that was only because the Buckeyes didn’t quite know what they had in Ezekiel Elliott. Once they figured it out, the backup running backs may as well have just stayed home.
Based on last year’s 1,096 yards rushing and nine touchdowns, Ohio State knows what they have in Mike Weber, and they expect him to be even better in 2017.
Where does that leave J.K. Dobbins? Like any other freshman, he’s got some work to do.
What to Like
I could be completely wrong, but I believe J.K. Dobbins is the best running back to come to Ohio State since Ezekiel Elliott. He’s compact (5-10 208), fast (4.4s all day long), strong, and nimble.
Well, usually he’s nimble.
Tony Alford lets J.K Dobbins know that this isn't high school anymore. pic.twitter.com/CQFwps8tNy
— Tony Gerdeman (@TonyGerdeman) March 21, 2017
And as you’ll see later this week from Kyle Morgan, he’s adept at the little things that determine whether or not a freshman will play when the game is still on the line.
Dobbins is a skilled runner in traffic and has the agility to move with it, against it, and between it. He can bounce from spot to spot, or simply power down and then burst through a gap just a step or two shy of top speed. There is no time wasted, but he also doesn’t hit the hole too soon. He’s got a great feel for where to be and when to get there. And if he’s a little late, he’s got the speed and quickness to make up the difference.
J.K. Dobbins has the potential to be Ohio State’s starting running back in 2018, without question. The last time the Buckeyes had a true sophomore starting at tailback, they won a national title.
Dobbins is a complete running back, which means that they can ask him to do anything. Kevin Wilson has had 2,000-yard rushers before, and I think Dobbins is capable of adding to that number. The current pace of OSU’s recruiting, however, might deem it unnecessary.
I could try to come up with some limitations for Dobbins just to play devil’s advocate, but I really don’t know what they are. His height? It’s not like I’m asking him to grab me a Fanta off the top shelf at Kroger.
Speaking with a number of people around the team, I have yet to hear anybody speak of Dobbins with doubt in their voice. There is sometimes caution, but that’s more because they don’t want to say what they’re thinking too loudly. They don’t want to jinx anything.
If J.K. Dobbins doesn’t play this season, I will be very, very surprised. Ohio State is likely only going to get two seasons on the field out of Mike Weber, and they won’t want the same thing to happen with Dobbins. Plus, with a faster offense this season, there will be more carries to go around.
It’s not like Dobbins will be looking for charity snaps, however, because he was moving up the depth chart at a nice pace this spring. In fact, he was on Demario McCall’s heels as the Buckeyes’ backup. If you see McCall working out in the slot this summer and into fall camp, you’ll have Dobbins to thank for it.
In Urban Meyer’s offense, a backup running back is always going to be watching other players carry the ball. The starter will get his 15-20, the quarterback will get his 8-30, and the H-back will get his 5-9. How many does that leave for Dobbins? That’s up to him. He has to crack a lineup that doesn’t usually get cracked. The good news for him, however, is that few rookies have been as poised to do so as he is.
The Bottom Line
Dobbins is going to play this year. He’s too talented for a coaching staff to ignore. Are there 4-5 carries per game out there for him? I’d like to think so, and I think he would do some good things with those opportunities. If you give him 4-5 carries per game, he’s going to turn them into 7-8 carries if you’re not careful.
If there is no room for J.K. Dobbins in Ohio State’s offense this year, then I hope you enjoy your national title. The only way I can see Dobbins not playing this year is if there is literally no need for him. Meaning, Mike Weber, Demario McCall, Antonio Williams, J.T. Barrett, and Parris Campbell are all unstoppable. I guess that would be a good thing from a fan’s perspective, but I’d be really bummed about not seeing Dobbins on the field this year.
After all, how can you watch this video and not want to see more?