Ohio State is Pushing Hard to Get Top-ranked Running Backs in Columbus Again, and It Might Be Working

By Taylor Lehman on March 16, 2019 at 8:10 am
J.K. Dobbins

A short drought of top-ranked running back prospects could come to an end for Ohio State soon with multiple top-ranked 2020 tailbacks interested in the Buckeyes.

Ohio State might have one more year before it needs to turn to its underclassman running backs that sit behind J.K. Dobbins on the depth chart. With the possibility of Dobbins declaring for the NFL draft after the 2019 season and Demario McCall working out with both the running backs and the wide receivers as an H-back, all eyes would turn to the three current freshman running backs in 2020.

Steele Chambers, Marcus Crowley and Master Teague, who is a redshirt freshman, are all competing for some sort of backup role behind Dobbins after Mike Weber left for the draft after the 2018 season. Teague carried the ball just 17 times before taking a redshirt for the season, and McCall, who is spending more time at the position in 2019, carried the ball only eight times last year.

For the 2020 recruiting class, head coach Ryan Day, running backs coach Tony Alford and the rest of the staff understand that they need to add one or two top running backs to their roster. But if they want those types of running backs in Columbus come 2020, they’ll need to land recruits they haven’t signed since Dobbins signed with the Buckeyes in the class of 2017.

Dobbins was the No. 2 all-purpose back in his class, Weber was the No. 7 running back in the 2015 class, Ezekiel Elliott was the No. 5 all-purpose back in the 2013 class and Carlos Hyde was the No. 1 fullback in the 2009 class. The three freshman running backs on the roster in 2019 were the No. 11 (Teague), No. 26 (Crowley) and the No. 11 (Chambers) prospects in their respective positions – Chambers classified as an athlete.

That doesn’t mean those three freshmen can’t produce at a high level in Columbus. Teague averaged 8.8 yards per carry and had a 2,000-yard, 24-touchdown season in high school, and Crowley recorded 2,300 yards on the ground and scored 31 total touchdowns as a senior in Florida.

But the Buckeyes are making runs at more highly-ranked running backs in the class of 2020, similar to the previous four tailbacks that defined much of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State. And they’re looking at more than one.

Ohio State has offered six of the top 10 running backs in the class and five of the top 10 all-purpose backs. While the Buckeyes are searching for at least two running backs among those that were offered, two of the top-five running backs have strong mutual interest in the Buckeyes.

One that has shown some of the strongest interest in the Buckeyes is Arizona running back Bijan Robinson, the No. 5 running back in the class. Robinson is known for his ability to be agile and also powerful and has opened some eyes with his pass-catching abilities. Ohio State is competing against UCLA for Robinson's commitment at the moment, but the 6-foot, 200-pound running back also plans to make an official visit to Texas, as well as Ohio State, and likely won’t commit until after his senior season at Salpointe Catholic High School.

The second running back that could be part of a potential pair of big commitments is No. 2 running back Kendall Milton out of Clovis, California. Milton announced his top-10 list in July 2018, and Ohio State was included. He had talked about visiting Ohio State during that summer but never did. The California running back announced earlier this week that he will be visiting Columbus on April 5, though, meaning Ohio State is very much in the mix for the 220-pound running back with breakaway speed.

The Buckeyes are still gaining interest from several other 2020 running backs, as well. DeaMonte Trayanum, a four-star athlete out of Akron, is interested in Ohio State and can play the defensive side of the ball as well. Five-star Demarkcus Bowman, the No. 3 running back in the class, said he will “for sure” make Ohio State one of his official visits this spring or summer, as well.

It's too early to say whether any of these prospects are the next Ezekiel Elliott or Carlos Hyde or J.K. Dobbins, but Ohio State is taking steps to add more potential program-defining running backs to its roster.

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