Roster turnover is nothing new for Ohio State as guys graduate from the program and/or leave early in pursuit of their NFL dreams.
Replacing the lost production with the next wave of talent is also a very familiar refrain in Columbus.
This fall, Ryan Day gets his first taste of this process as a head coach and one phase of the game hit fairly hard by the departure of productive players is a rushing attack that ranked No. 63 in the nation last season.
Obviously the overwhelming majority of lost rushing production comes as Mike Weber declared for the NFL Draft after three seasons with the Buckeyes.
Last year, Weber served as backup to J.K. Dobbins and cranked out 954 yards and five touchdowns on a sturdy 5.5 yards per carry behind an offensive line that seemed to favor pass blocking.
Weber tallied just two games of 100+ rushing yards but had five outings over 90 yards and was typically at his best against the tougher rush defenses on the schedule as Dobbins struggled.
Against Michigan State, Weber ran for 104 yards and a touchdown while Dobbins carried it 14 times for 28 yards. Against Michigan, Weber went for 96 yards on 13 carries with a score as Dobbins logged a 12-for-46 afternoon. Finally, against Washington in the Rose Bowl, Weber put up another 96 yards, this time on 15 carries, while Dobbins posted seven carries for 24 yards.
The running game didn't really feature any other players that have moved on to the next level outside of quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Often showcasing a running style that would make C-3PO blush, Haskins logged 79 official attempts for 108 yards with four scores. He had his moments carrying the ball especially late in the season but he wasn't on the field to run the damn ball.
Finally, transfer Tate Martell was the only other ball carrier to go for at least 100 total yards last season with 128 in early-season blowouts. Brian Snead and Parris Campbell combined for 20 carries (remember jet sweeps count as receptions) and 61 yards to round out the lost production.
|HEADING INTO YEAR:||RUSHES LOST||% OF RUSHES LOST||RUSH YDS LOST||% OF RUSH YDS LOST||RUSH TD LOST||% OF RUSH TD LOST|
Heading into 2019, Dobbins will be counted on to again do the heaviest lifting. Even after a subpar sophomore year when compared to his true freshman campaign, Dobbins still broke the 1,000 yard barrier by 53 yards and logged a team-high 10 rushing touchdowns.
The biggest issue was his huge drop in yards per carry – from a near-program-record 7.3 as a freshman to a pedestrian (by OSU standards) 4.6 as a sophomore – behind an offensive line that struggled to create holes.
Weber proved better at creating his own seams and having a better shot of dragging guys and/or falling forward than Dobbins, who has shown to be dangerous back when he can get to the second level relatively unscathed.
Last year, Dobbins went for 205 yards on 37 carries with a touchdown in a heroic performance against Maryland, torched Nebraska for 163 yards and three scores, and played a big role in Ohio State's win over TCU with 121 yards on 18 carries.
Whether or not Dobbins has success on par with his 2017 campaign remains to be seen and will again be somewhat dependent Ohio State's offensive line doing its a job with far greater effectiveness than it did for large stretches of 2018.
Either way, while many expect Dobbins to be the bell cow, a more balanced workload like we witnessed last season could be in play if Demario McCall can prove to be an effective backup tailback while possibly moonlighting at H-back and Justin Fields also logs a few more designed runs than Haskins did last fall.
If McCall is used more exclusively on the outside and/or doesn't prove serviceable as a ball carrier, it's plausible redshirt freshman Master Teague gets a chance after flashing a nice blend of speed and power in September blowouts last season.
After that, it feels like a long shot but true freshman Marcus Crowley doesn't seem to be short on talent.
At least one of the McCall, Teague, Crowley trio must emerge because having two dependable backs is a must no matter what Day might ask Fields to bring to the table as a runner.