When J.K. Dobbins arrived on campus at Ohio State in the spring, there were questions about where he would fit in on the depth chart.
Almost immediately, Dobbins passed Antonio Williams during spring ball and began competing with Demario McCall for the No. 2 spot on the running back depth chart behind Mike Weber.
That changed when McCall was moved into the wide receivers' room as a H-back during fall practice, leaving Dobbins as the assumed second man. When asked who would be the primary backup to Weber, running backs coach Tony Alford confirmed the second running back spot belongs solely to Dobbins after a stellar fall camp.
"J.K., without question," Alford said. "This guy loves football. He is smart. In my 22 years, this guy has picked it up faster than anyone I have ever been around. He has picked it up, understands the offense. He plays hard. He goes so hard, which is part of the culture of this program."
Even though he's earned the second spot, Alford said it was not until recently that the coaching staff felt comfortable preparing to play Dobbins in the matchup against Indiana.
The turning point for Dobbins came midway through fall camp, after he impressed the coaches with his play when the ball wasn't in his hands.
"I would say probably a week to a week and a half ago, (we saw) he is about ready," Alford said. "Pass pro and understanding where to go, so (he is) not just a one-dimensional guy."
Weber, who redshirted his first season before rushing for 1,096 yards and nine scores last season, echoed Alford's comments about Dobbins, adding he's seen the La Grange, Texas native take a step forward in recent months.
"I feel like he improved a lot from spring ball," Weber said. "He’s learning all the plays, and he’s an impressive running back. He’s a good pass blocker and he should help us win."
Head coach Urban Meyer has said on multiple occasions in both spring and fall camp that Dobbins will play in 2017, but just how much remains to be seen. Since he missed his senior season of high school, Dobbins has not played significant reps in a game setting since 2015.
With Weber still nursing a hamstring injury, the probability that Dobbins gets multiple carries against Indiana on Aug. 31 continues to rise. Alford maintains Weber will be healthy enough to start against the Hoosiers, but would not commit to the amount of carries Weber or Dobbins will get in the season opener.
"I don't have a crystal ball. I think a lot of that is, how is Mike doing? How is he playing? How is the flow of the game? Let's say J.K. gets in and he pops off a couple of good runs. To say how you are going to split the carries right now, we are still 12-13 days out," Alford said Friday. "I am not comfortable saying what those numbers are. Because if I say what it is going to be and it doesn't happen, now I am a liar. You lose the trust of your players that way."