With Dwayne Haskins As The Starter, Ohio State's Running Backs Should See A Significant Increase In Carries

By James Grega on May 14, 2018 at 10:10 am
J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber

Let's set the situation for you. 

It's third-and-1 for Ohio State during the 2016 and 2017 seasons. J.T. Barrett lines up in an empty set. You know where this is going. 

The Buckeyes utilized the QB Power quite often during the Barrett era at Ohio State, and while it was effective in short yardage situations, it was perhaps the most predictable play call in college football. 

Had Joe Burrow won the Ohio State quarterback derby, there was a good chance that play call would have remained a prominent part of the Buckeye arsenal. Now, while it will always be in the Buckeye playbook, it seems more likely that J.K. Dobbins or Mike Weber could get the call on third-and-short in 2018. 

Dwayne Haskins is a capable runner, but doesn't yet have the strength to push through a stacked defensive line in short yardage situations. Tate Martell would be a better option in these scenarios because of his agility, but also doesn't provide the fullback-like power that Barrett did in the same situations. 

Enter Ohio State's two-headed monster at quarterback, which should not only get the ball in these situations more often in 2018, but perhaps get more evenly split carries, an opportunity Weber believed was possible before the QB situation was finalized. 

"If you run the ball more than 30 times a game, which we have been, since (Barrett) is gone, there could be more carries for us," Weber said April 9. "I feel we can (each) get 15 to 18 a game, unless we are blowing someone out or we get pulled."

Barrett accounted for nearly 30 percent of Ohio State's 589 carries last season and also led the team in rushing touchdowns with 12. That production isn't expected to be met by Haskins, who has said himself he is a pass-first signal caller. 

That means Dobbins and Weber should see their production increase next season, a scary thought considering both have accumulated 1,000-yard seasons already in their respective careers. 

Their leadership and knowledge of the game also should contribute to more carries in 2018. Running backs coach Tony Alford raved about the enhanced knowledge of Ohio State's offense from both backs, and said it has only added to the healthy competition in his unit.

"In the meeting room, we can go further into detail. Kind of like graduate level thinking, if you will," Alford said April 9. "They do a great job. We get them on the board and they are talking a lot and talking to one another so it is more interactive, versus me having to lecture."

Ohio State's zone-read game figures to be dialed down just a bit, while the run-pass option plays figure to increase due to Haskins' skill set. The famous (or infamous) QB Power play will surely be displayed in some fashion, but with Dobbins and Weber in the backfield, should also be dialed back in 2018. 

With the big arm of Haskins and arguably the most talented running back unit in the country, Ohio State figures to look more like 2014-15 with Cardale Jones than 2016-17 with Barrett. At least, that is what Weber thinks. 

"That makes a lot of sense, but it is up to the coaches to come up with that," Weber said. "We have to show up and play ball."

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