COLUMBUS — J.K. Dobbins isn’t the average true freshman running back.
He isn’t one to bask in the spotlight that comes with being Ohio State’s starting running back. He doesn’t show extreme confidence that could be confused for hubris. He’s a team-first guy, crediting his offensive line, wide receivers and tight end for blocking in front of him.
Three games into the season, this much is clear: He also happens to be Ohio State’s best offensive weapon.
Dobbins carried the ball 13 times for 172 yards and two touchdowns in Ohio State’s 38-7 victory Saturday against Army, which included five gains of 10-plus yards and a 52-yard touchdown run that extended the Buckeyes’ lead against Army to 24-7 in the third quarter. It was another impressive outing from a first-year player who has been OSU’s most consistent offensive playmaker.
“We saw [what Dobbins did] against Indiana,” Urban Meyer said. “He’s a perfect tailback. He’s a space player that we need.”
Through three games, Dobbins is averaging 141.6 yards rushing per game and 7.7 yards per carry. Saturday, he nearly eclipsed his career-high 181 rushing yards he set against Indiana. The more impressive thing is he accomplished the 173 yards on 16 fewer carries.
Dobbins had 50 yards on five carries and a 2-yard touchdown run after one quarter, yet only touched the ball twice in the second quarter. To be fair, Ohio State had just one drive in the second quarter, which resulted in a field goal. However, the offense had a first-and-10 play at the Army 15 and Ohio State called three straight pass plays which ended in a 1-yard loss on a J.T. Barrett scramble.
Going away from the run game hurt Ohio State’s offense a week ago and was seen a few times Saturday before Dobbins put the game to rest with his long touchdown run early in the third. Meyer, H-back Parris Campbell, and Dobbins all said the tempo and the balance between the run and passing game Saturday is what has to be the norm for the team. It’s clear, however, that tempo begins and ends with Dobbins.
“J.K. is a one of a kind player,” Campbell said. “Obviously we all see it on the field. He’s very explosive and he can really be something special.”
Coaches and players raved about Dobbins in the offseason, and the running back has proved their testimony true early in his college career. He also has proven that he’s who Ohio State should trust when the offense needs a first down or a spark. That’s exactly what his 22-yard run, followed by the 52-yard touchdown, did to the offense. Barrett was 11-for-13 passing for 137 yards and two touchdowns on three drives in the second half.
“I felt like we got a lot of energy from [the 52-yard touchdown] — the whole team,” Dobbins said. “We just started clicking.”
Dobbins added that he didn’t expect the start to his college career that he’s having. He expected success, but to average nearly 150 yards on the ground per game as a true freshman — at a program like Ohio State — is an astonishing achievement.
“I am getting into a rhythm,” Dobbins said. “I’m just trying to keep getting better.”
Dobbins has shown he can be the answer to offensive problems. And for an offense still looking for playmakers at other positions, there’s little denying the freshman is Meyer’s best bet right now.