J.K. Dobbins looked like a featured back in his very first game as a Buckeye.
It was September 1, 2017 and Ohio State was opening its season on the road against Indiana. The Buckeyes returned their top running back, Mike Weber, from a season before, but he was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
That forced the freshman back from La Grange, Texas, into action, and Dobbins showcased that while undersized, he still had plenty of power, speed and durability to carry the load.
It was the best performance for a freshman running back playing his first game in school history. Dobbins toted the ball 29 times for 181 yards and hauled in two catches for 24 yards.
Weber returned the following week, and other than a pair of games over the last two seasons, the two split duties from that point on.
Ohio State hasn't had a true featured back since Ezekiel Elliott ran the show in 2015.
Back then, the Buckeyes were coming off their national championship run and boasted one of the most star-studded rosters in school history. There was Michael Thomas on the perimeter, Braxton Miller and Curtis Samuel in the slot with the ability to motion into the backfield, and then Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett behind center.
But that year, the only player to consistently produce was Elliott, who eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all but one game and finished the year with 2,027 total yards and 23 touchdowns.
Since then, Ohio State featured a split backfield. In 2016, Weber was the primary ball-carrier with Samuel providing a complimentary role. It was supposed to be Weber's backfield alone in '17, but that lingering hamstring injury opened the door for Dobbins.
With Weber's departure to the NFL, Dobbins has the opportunity to capture the lead role.
Barring an injury, Dobbins is a lock to be the starter next season. He's cracked 1,000 rushing yards in both of his first two seasons and accounted for an incredible 2,854 total yards and 20 touchdowns.
The question here is whether new head coach Ryan Day makes Dobbins a workhorse or shared the load with a deep backfield.
The Buckeyes have plenty of capable ball-carriers. Demario McCall has filled in as the backup H-back and perimeter threat, but his most natural position is in the backfield next to the quarterback.
Ohio State also has a pair of freshmen studs in former 4-stars Brian Snead and Master Teague, both of whom saw the field in limited action last season. The pair scored touchdowns in the Buckeyes' season opener against Oregon State, with Teague piling up 56 yards on six carries and Snead gaining 25 on seven opportunities.
Whether it's necessary for Ohio State to rely on that depth will be a storyline to follow this spring. Dobbins looks more than capable of shouldering the weight of the burden, as evidenced by his performance against Maryland in November.
With Weber sidelined, Dobbins carried the ball 37 for 203 yards against the Terrapins. He wasn't deflated by the workload — in fact, it had the opposite effect.
“When you can play more than one drive at a time, you can get in a groove," Dobbins said after the Maryland game. "I'm an energetic guy, so whenever I get in a groove, I get pretty energetic.”