Once Forced to Choose Between Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Green, Urban Meyer Again Finds Himself in Difficult Situation

By Andrew Lind on July 31, 2016 at 8:30 am
J.K. Dobbins, left, and Ezekiel Elliott at Nike's The Opening.
J.K. Dobbins, left, and Ezekiel Elliott at Nike's The Opening.

Derrick Green wanted to be a Buckeye.

The nation's top-ranked running back in the Class of 2013 once said that watching Ohio State every Saturday with his late grandfather was among his fondest childhood memories. He even donned No. 27 at Richmond, Virginia, Hermitage High School because he idolized 1995 Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George.

It seemed like destiny. But somewhere along the way, that dream was interrupted.

Urban Meyer had yet to coach a game at Ohio State when a running back from St. Louis, Missouri, made his first visit to Columbus. His name? Ezekiel Elliott.

Meyer extended a scholarship offer to Elliott, whom 247Sports considered the No. 5 overall all-purpose back in his class, but with the stipulation that he had to make a quick decision.

“Ohio State told us they had limited scholarships, and they were only taking one running back,” said Elliott's father, Stacy. “We were liking Ohio State more than any of the other schools at the time, and Ezekiel decided he didn't want to miss out on having a chance to play football at Ohio State.”

As prolific as his offenses had been throughout his 11-year coaching career, Meyer had yet to have a running back rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. So hitting on the right running back was of grave importance in his first full recruiting class.

The Buckeyes could have landed both; the team added four-star back Dontre Wilson in the same class. But the possibility of losing Elliott as a consequence of recruiting Green was not water that Meyer wanted to tread, and Ohio State distanced itself from the top recruit that summer.

“That meant a lot to us when Derrick Green was not invited to the Friday Night Lights camp because they had Ezekiel Elliott,” Stacy told Cleveland.com. “It meant a whole lot to me and [his mother] Dawn. I know it meant a lot to Ezekiel.”

Green ultimately landed with Michigan, as he was enticed by the opportunity for early playing time.

Three years later, Green left the Wolverines for TCU as a graduate transfer with only 898 yards and seven touchdowns to his name.

Elliott, meanwhile, was recently selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He rushed for nearly 4,000 yards during his Ohio State career, 696 of which game during a three-game postseason stretch that culminated with the Buckeyes winning the national championship.

And though hindsight shows that the Buckeyes made the right choice, fans and recruiting analysts alike were up in arms at the time about Meyer's choice to pursue the less-heralded Elliott.

A similar storyline seems to be playing itself out this summer, too.

La Grange, Texas, running back J.K. Dobbins committed to Ohio State in March after being offered just two weeks prior. The Buckeyes wanted the second-ranked all-purpose back so immensely that they asked Akron Archbishop Hoban's Todd Sibley — who had been committed for nearly a year — to grayshirt.

Sibley flipped to Pittsburgh last month as a result, leaving Dobbins as the only running back in Ohio State's 2017 class. But, the Buckeyes have also entered the race for five-star running back Cam Akers in recent months.

The ninth-ranked player overall and second-best back in the class, Akers was once committed to Alabama. Pairing the two would not only surely seal the top-rated recruiting class for Ohio State, but would also give the Buckeyes one of the most lethal backfield duos in recent memory.

With only a limited number of scholarships available in this class, recruiting them both may be a hard line to toe. Dobbins has already said that he would take other visits if Akers were to choose the Scarlet and Gray.

“From a competitive standpoint, no it wouldn't impact my decision,” Dobbins told 247Sports. “Only if [Akers] commits, I will take other visits. I have been loyal to Ohio State. So, because of that, if another back commits, then it is only fair I visit other places.

“There's a lot of other schools that feel I'm good enough and don't need another back,” he continued, “so if I fell in love with a place, then I'd possibly decommit and go there if it's right for me. It's only because I'm really loyal to Ohio State.”

Once again, Meyer finds himself in a situation where he must choose who he believes is the best fit for his program.

Should he take Dobbins, the Buckeyes would be getting one of the best athletes in the country. The 5-foot-9, 199-pounder was recently named the Nike+ Football Ratings Champion after posting a 146.76 SPARQ score at The Opening.

To add a little bit more intrigue, Dobbins was presented with a trophy for his performance by none other than Ezekiel Elliott.

Should Akers commit, the Buckeyes would land a back who looks as if he was cast from the same mold as No. 15. His 5-foot-11, 213-pound frame makes it easy for him to bulldoze defenders at the line of scrimmage, and his 4.4 speed makes him difficult to bring down once he's in the second level.

Sound familiar?

Having to pick between two of the top backs in the country — or figuring out a way to appease both — is an issue that would make any other program green with envy. We'll just have to wait and see if Meyer and his staff choose wisely once again.

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