A case can certainly be made that running back is the most important position group remaining for the 2020 recruiting class. J.K. Dobbins could be gone after this coming season, and the depth could then get a bit dicey. Brian Snead's early departure was unfortunate, and clearly that's part of the reason Tony Alford's efforts are in the spotlight this recruiting cycle.
If Dobbins does elect to bolt to the NFL, that would leave the Buckeye backfield with Master Teague, Marcus Crowley, Demario McCall, and Steele Chambers. McCall is viewed as more of a hybrid type and some project Chambers to end up at linebacker. This is exactly why we're expecting Ohio State to sign a pair of tailbacks before next February rolls around.
The odds are that Ryan Day and Tony Alford will look to bring in a local prospect such as Akron's DeaMonte Trayanum and then shoot for the stars with an elite national tailback. The names we've consistently been talking about continue to be the top options as Ohio State looks to reload the team's "Cadillac position."
California's Kendall Milton and Arizona's Bijan Robinson are both five-star tailback prospects, and they're both at the very top of Ohio State's wish list. They're also two very different players with different skill sets. Many are probably wondering why the good guys can't have them both, and while that would obviously be phenomenal, it simply isn't going to happen.
Alford really can't go wrong with either guy, but I don't think it's fair to say the Buckeyes are the clear-cut favorite for either one at the moment. There's still a long way to go in both recruitments with official visits on the horizon this spring and summer.
As far as the preference, it really depends on what you're looking for in a running back. Milton is 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds with great balance and power. Robinson is more of a shifty playmaker who is always a threat to score. As is always the case, you've also got to consider the level of competition and surrounding talent.
Oklahoma is the crystal ball favorite, but the Buckeyes are actually battling the SEC for Milton's services. His recruitment is coming down to Ohio State, Georgia, LSU, and Alabama. It's not going to be easy, but right now I get the feeling the Buckeyes could be at the top of the list. Milton will be in Columbus next weekend for an official and then will head to Baton Rouge a week later. These are four programs that recruit running backs at an elite level and each school is a very real contender.
The Clovis, California back has a bit of an upright running style, but that's worked in the past for bigger guys like Adrian Peterson. Over the last two years, he's rushed for over 2,800 yards and 50 touchdowns while averaging just over eight yards per carry. He's also caught 15 passes for 188 yards and two scores during that time period. Milton recorded a 4.76-second 40-yard dash back in February at one of The Opening's regional events. Obviously that's not an electric time, but his speed and footwork appear just fine on tape.
Checking in at 6-foot and 200 pounds, Tucson's Bijan Robinson is likely to be considered the more exciting running back of the two. He changes direction quickly and makes guys miss. And while he's not the 220-pound specimen that Milton is, he does break plenty of tackles on film. He's the country's No. 5 player at the position, two spots behind the Cali star.
Robinson is considering a number of different programs, but the competition isn't nearly as stiff as it is in Milton's case. UCLA is actually the presumptive favorite, and one has to think that's a battle the Buckeyes can win. Some experts do expect the five-star to stay out West, however, so the distance from home may present a challenge with this one.
He's not expected to make a decision soon, which has got to be good news for Alford and the Buckeyes. Ohio State will host Robinson on June 14th for an official visit, and he plans on making all five before announcing a decision late in the process. UCLA, USC, Texas and perhaps even Arizona are all in contention.
Robinson's tape is some of the best you'll ever see for a high school tailback. He's a big-play threat and it's tough to identify anything that he doesn't do well. During his sophomore and junior seasons, he compiled over 4,400 yards rushing and an absurd 61 touchdowns – including a 99-yarder – while averaging over 12 yards per attempt. He also hauled in 18 passes for close to 300 yards and another four scores.
Kendall Milton and Bijan Robinson are two very different backs, but it's obvious why both are coveted by Ohio State and coaching staffs all across the country. With the Milton visit coming up next week and Robinson's shortly thereafter, we're entering a pivotal point in the 2020 recruiting cycle.
Whether you prefer Milton's size and tackle-breaking or Robinson's cutback ability and home-run potential, Tony Alford and the Buckeyes really need to nab one of them to keep things rolling for the Ohio State ground game.