Master Teague Heads Into 2020 As Ohio State's RB1

By Chris Lauderback on February 6, 2020 at 11:05 am
Master Teague ran for a career-high 111 yards in a 73-14 win over Maryland.
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Despite standing just 5-foot-10, J.K. Dobbins cast one hell of a shadow on Ohio State's running back room heading into 2020. 

Small in stature, Dobbins' impact on the 2019 season – and Ohio State's record book – will be unmistakable for years to come. 

Within that reality, redshirt sophomore Master Teague assuredly has first crack at replacing the departed Dobbins as the starting tailback in Columbus. 

Last year, Teague saw action in 13 games for the Buckeyes, churning out 789 rushing yards on 5.8 per carry with four touchdowns. Basically, as a backup, Teague registered the seventh-most rushing yards of any tailback in the Big Ten. 

One facet of Dobbins' game you'd likely view as tough to replace is explosive plays. Dobbins ranked No. 4 in the nation with 62 scrimmage plays of 10+ yards and No. 6 with 24 scrimmage plays of 20+ yards. 

In fact, 19% of J.K.'s 324 scrimmage touches went for at least 10 yards and 7% went for at least 20. Naturally, virtually all of that success came against first-string defenses. 

With Dobbins leading the way, Ohio State ranked No. 5 nationally in scrimmage plays of at least 10 yards (264), No. 4 in scrimmage plays of at least 20 yards and No. 4 in total offense with 529.9 yards per game. 

Teague did more heavy lifting on the big play front than you might've realized. In 139 scrimmage touches, the Murfreesboro, Tennessee product cranked out 23 plays of 10+ yards and eight of 20+ yards. 

Those numbers convert to 17% of his scrimmage touches going for at least 10 yards and 6% going for at least 20. 

Teague logged his first career 100-yard rushing game in week three versus Indiana's backups including a 40-yard burst for his first touchdown of the season. 

Two weeks later he began a five-game stretch in which he averaged 90 rushing yards per game on 7.0 per carry highlighted by a career-high 111 rushing yards on 6.2 per attempt in a 73-14 spanking of Maryland. 

His explosive afternoon against the Terps featured four rushes for at least 14 yards and a 10-yard reception against largely backups and worn down starters dotting Maryland's 83rd-ranked rushing defense. 

After scorching Maryland to cap a prolific five-game run, Teague sputtered as his usage rate plummeted with Ohio State facing stiffer competition.

He did log 10 carries for 45 yards against Rutgers but had just two carries for seven yards versus Penn State. 

A week later in Ann Arbor, despite receiving 12 carries, Teague managed just 29 yards and was even less effective in the Fiesta Bowl. Versus Clemson, his seven rushes netted nine yards. 

His ineffectiveness against the better defenses on the schedule, small sample size or not, begs the question: Can Teague take his game to the next level once the majority of his touches come against first-string defenses? 

There's no question he has a nice blend of power and speed for a man his size but it feels fair to characterize his wheels as straight-line. His ability to elude defenders with shifty moves in the open field however remains a bit of a question mark. 

As our own Kyle Jones pointed out recently, part of Teague's late season struggles came with impatience waiting for holes to emerge in the mid-zone scheme. The difference in skill set between Teague and Dobbins will no doubt test Ryan Day's chops as he looks to better suit Ohio State's running game to Master's strengths. 

Instead of a ton of mid-zone scheme runs, as Kyle noted, Day could elect to remove some of the guesswork from the equation and get Teague into fast-developing plays in an effort to get him downhill as quickly as possible. That of course would put pressure on the defense to step in front of a physical back bringing a head of steam. 

Day will no doubt put Teague in position to succeed but how Teague's style meshes with what Justin Fields can do in the run game will also be interesting to watch. Similarly, though Ohio State is loaded with pass catchers, Dobbins had 24 receptions out of the backfield a season ago while Teague had four albeit in significantly less playing time. 

Replacing Dobbins won't be easy, and it's unrealistic to think Teague can get close to the production J.K. tallied in 2019 but the unknown around just how good he can be and exactly how Day will alter the offense to suit his strengths should be fascinating to watch. 

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