Finding the right fit for your college football program isn't just about what happens on the field, but off it as well. Today, Ohio State added a key piece. How will that commitment impact the Buckeyes?
Ohio State landed a commitment from one of the nation’s top running backs when Scottsdale, Arizona, Chaparral four-star running back Darvon Hubbard pledged his services to the Buckeyes on Wednesday evening, a little over a month after he landed an offer following Friday Night Lights.
Let's take a closer look at what Hubbard – the No. 232 prospect overall in the Class of 2020 – brings to Columbus.
ON THE FIELD
The 6-foot, 200-pound Hubbard is built in the same mold as Ohio State starting running backs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins, and is quite athletic for his stout frame.
“In the short time I’ve had working with him, I’ve say what makes him dynamic and a good weapon for us is his size, speed and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield,” Chaparral first-year offensive coordinator Tim Kohner told Eleven Warriors. “It really makes him a good all-purpose back for us. He’s a tough guy to bring down, for sure.”
Hubbard rushed for 503 yards and seven touchdowns and caught one pass for 20 yards and another score in 10 games for the Firebirds last season. He split carries with two upperclassmen, but should see his statistics improve drastically since he’ll be the undisputed starter and a three-down back this season.
“Whether it’s 3rd-and-1 and he’ll power ahead and get me a first down or it’s 3rd-and-20, I’ll have no problem sending him out on a pass route and have no fear that he’ll catch the ball to get me the yards we need,” Kohner said. “He’s strong enough to get a 4th-and-goal and quick, agile and skillful enough to catch the ball out of the backfield to get big yardage when needed.”
Hubbard could certainly improve his blocking technique and his ability to catch with his hands when leaking out of the backfield, which was a bit of an issue during the Buckeyes’ one-day camp earlier this month. But that said, he is still just 16 years old and learning the intricacies of the game.
“He’s a young kid still,” Kohner said. “Whether it’s just staying focused every single day and enjoying working hard to get where he needs to be. He was blessed with a skillset when he was young, so he just needs to keep working on his leadership skills and enjoying the process so that it becomes second nature when Friday night comes around. That’ll come in the next two years.”
IN THE CLASS
Hubbard becomes the sixth member of Ohio State’s yet-to-be-named 2020 recruiting class, joining Cincinnati St. Xavier five-star offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr., Arizona four-star quarterback Jack Miller III, Florida four-star cornerback Lejond Cavazos, Georgia four-star offensive tackle Jake Wray and New Jersey four-star offensive guard Luke Wypler.
Current starters Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins will both be off to the National Football League by the time this class steps on campus, which leaves incoming freshmen Brian Snead and Master Teague III as the only true running backs on scholarship moving forward. Similarly, questions remain as to whether or not four-star commit Steele Chambers plays running back or linebacker at the next level, which means Sampson James may be the only true running back taken this cycle.
Landing Hubbard gives the Buckeyes some much-needed depth at the position, and allows the staff to shoot for the stars in their search for a second running back next cycle. The pool is especially deep, too, with California five-star Kendall Milton, Maryland five-star MarShawn Lloyd, Texas five-star Zachary Evans, Virginia five-star Chris Tyree, Dublin Coffman four-star Michael Drennen II, Florida four-star Demarkcus Bowman and Texas four-star Emmitt “E.J.” Smith all holding an offer from and showing significant interest in Ohio State early in the process.
Milton, though he’ll be a tough pull from the West Coast, has established a great relationship with running backs coach Tony Alford and is eyeing a visit this fall. Drennen has not been shy about his affinity for the Buckeyes, though he’ll likely be an H-Back at the next level like his cousin Jaelen Gill.
Smith — the son of Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith — visited this spring, but Ohio State is facing an uphill battle against his father’s alma mater, Florida. And Bowman, last but not least, called the Buckeyes his “dream school” despite the fact that he’s still looking forward to his first trip to Columbus.
Akron Archbishop Hoban four-star athlete DeaMonte Trayanum is another name to keep in mind, since Ohio State is recruiting him as a running back at the moment. Most, including myself, believe he’ll end up at linebacker at the next level, though.
Originally from Akron, Hubbard moved to Scottsdale prior to the start of his sophomore year for family reasons. There, he shares a backfield with the above-mentioned Miller.
“We’re like best friends. I could call him now and he’d pick up,” Hubbard said. “We’ve just got a very good connection.”
The Buckeyes already had an excellent chance to land Hubbard no matter how long it took to offer, Miller’s pledge just days later surely sealed the deal. Miller, after all, mentioned Hubbard as one of his top targets before he even committed.
“I want to commit soon just so I can start building on my class, for sure,” Miller said after Friday Night Lights. “Like Lejond, [Pennsylvania five-star wide receiver] Julian Fleming and [California five-star running back] Kendall Milton. My teammate, Darvon, too. I have a lot of guys in mind.”
Half of that list is already in the fold. We’ll see if Ohio State can cross the rest off, as well.