Running the Football Is Still Important In 2019, Believe It or Not

By David Wertheim on July 27, 2019 at 8:45 am
Dobbins run

Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott didn't get it enough, everyone said. J.T. Barrett got it too much, everyone said.

The running game at Ohio State has been a hot topic in recent seasons. The run (or lack thereof) led to several heartbreaking losses to Michigan State when Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott should have gotten the ball more out of the backfield. 

The run has also led to exciting times, such as when Elliott rushed for 230 yards and this magical touchdown.

Regardless of the number of good and bad times though, Ohio State needs to stick with the run in 2019.

Last season, with a pro-style quarterback at the helm in Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State's rushing attack suffered to a degree. J.K. Dobbins had a far worse sophomore year than freshman year, and the quarterback run was nonexistent. 

With Justin Fields in Columbus now, as a significantly better runner than Haskins, the running game is poised for success once again. Dobbins will return as a true junior in a make-or-break season that could see him bolt to the NFL if all goes well. Master Teague will get his first real playing time, while Marcus Crowley has been on campus and impressive as well.

Dobbins acknowledged back in May that last season was a “down year” for him, and said he realized a “need to get back to the basics” as he looks to get back to his excellent freshman season when he rushed for 1,403 yards (7.2 yards per carry).

Up front, the slobs are ready to go. Ohio State had to replace four out of the five starters from last year's line (Thayer Munford is the lone returner), but talented players such as Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers will line up alongside Jonah Jackson, the graduate transfer from Rutgers.

With Ryan Day coming in and recruiting more pro-style quarterbacks, the Buckeyes offense could become more pass-heavy. And while I don't think that's necessarily a bad assumption for one to make, as we already saw major differences last year as opposed to the years before, it would make sense for Day to include the run in his offense heavily.

Let's look at it this way: the Big Ten throughout its history has been a "rough-and-tumble" conference. Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin have put up huge numbers in recent years, and the Big Ten always churns out pro-ready running backs at a solid rate (Elliott, Melvin Gordon and Saquon Barkley, to name a few recent ones).

In this conference, you have November games with temperatures below freezing. You have big ol' midwestern men lined up across from you, ready to play absolute smash mouth football.

In a serious way, though, the run game has major advantages. It helps keep the defense guessing, and when Ohio State didn't have it at times last year, it struggled – particularly in its loss to Purdue, which cost the Buckeyes a spot in the College Football Playoff at the end of the season.

For the Buckeyes to earn a spot in the playoff this year, they're going to need to give the running back the rock.

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