How Concerning is Ohio State's Lack of Depth at Running Back Behind J.K. Dobbins?

By David Regimbal on February 25, 2019 at 2:45 pm
J.K. Dobbins

Eleven Warriors

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Ohio State didn't have issues at running back during Urban Meyer's tenure.

Carlos Hyde kicked things off as Meyer's featured back from 2012-13, piling up 2,378 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns during the span. Ezekiel Elliott took over the following season and put together one of the most impressive two year stretches for any running back in school history, amassing 3,074 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns.

Elliott handed the torch over to Mike Weber in 2016, and a year later he and J.K. Dobbins formed one of the top running back duos in the country.

As the calendar turned to 2019, Ohio State became Ryan Day's program, and the backfield became Dobbins' alone with Weber's early deflection to the NFL. 

Does that spell trouble for the Buckeyes at running back?

To his credit, Dobbins has proven himself not only capable as a featured back, but as a guy who seems to thrive in it.

In his first collegiate game as a true freshman, he was forced into a starting role with Weber sidelined by a hamstring injury. On the road, in prime time against a conference opponent, he set the school record for rushing yards as a freshman with 181 on 29 carries.

That wasn't a flash in the pan either. Whenever Ohio State needed Dobbins to carry the load, he answered the bell. Just last November, he set career highs with 37 carries and 203 rushing yards in a 52-51 shootout victory over Maryland. 

"When you can play more than one drive at a time, you can get in a groove," Dobbins said after the game. "I'm an energetic guy, so whenever I get in a groove, I get pretty energetic."

With Weber's departure, Dobbins says he's ready to step into a featured role. But what happens if he goes down with an injury or needs a break?

The most proven option is fellow (redshirt) junior Demario McCall, who's spent his collegiate career to date bouncing between the running back and wide receiver rooms. McCall's flashed loads of playmaking potential during his time with the Buckeyes, but never found the consistency to make a big impact in an offense loaded with playmakers.

But with Weber's departure and lack a of depth, Day and the new staff moved McCall back to his natural position at running back, and he feels primed for big things.

“It just feels so comfortable and so home to me that it feels like it's natural,” McCall said of returning to the backfield. “I'm not going to lie, receiver was something I had to work at. It was something I could do, but at the end of the day, that's a position that you have to work at to become good. So, I feel like I'm a tailback who can do receiver things.”

Behind McCall are a trio of freshman in Master Teague, Marcus Crowley and Steele Chambers. Teague, a redshirt freshman, got his feet wet last year playing in three games. He totaled 17 carries for 106 yards and one touchdown.

As part of Ohio State's 2019 recruiting class, Crowley and Chambers are the new faces in the running back room, and it's won't be determine whether either will be ready for collegiate action until fall camp. 

That leaves Dobbins as the only proven entity in the backfield, but if you ask Ohio State's talented running back, he has nothing but confidence for himself and his team this fall.

“I’m just saying we’re going to win the national championship, and I think I’m going to have a pretty good year," Dobbins said of 2019 after Ohio State's Rose Bowl victory over Washington. "That’s all I can tell you."

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