From the Shoe to the Show: A Look Back at the Ohio State Career Highlights of NFL Draft Prospect J.K. Dobbins

By Dan Hope on April 8, 2020 at 8:35 am
J.K. Dobbins

Another new group of Buckeyes are about to officially become NFL players, so we’re taking a look back at the best highlights from their Ohio State careers in From the Shoe to the Show.

Ohio State is set to be one of the most well-represented schools in the NFL draft once again in 2020, with more than a dozen players who are expected to either be drafted or sign as undrafted free agents when this year’s draft is held later this month (April 23-25).

After starting out with projected top draft picks Chase Young and Jeff Okudah, the third installment of the series brings us to the Buckeyes’ other early entrant into the 2020 NFL draft, J.K. Dobbins, who is coming off one of the most successful careers ever for an Ohio State running back. Dobbins became an immediate star in his first season at Ohio State – more specifically, his first game – and finished his three-year career as the school’s No. 2 all-time rusher (4,459 yards) after becoming Ohio State’s first-ever 2,000-yard single-season rusher in 2019.

Considering all those yards as well as the 43 total touchdowns that Dobbins scored, there are no shortage of highlights to look back on from his Ohio State career. We’ve chosen some of the best that are worth another watch below.

An unforgettable debut

Dobbins started the very first game of his Ohio State career, a Thursday night road contest at Indiana, after Mike Weber suffered an injury that sidelined him for the Buckeyes’ opening game of the 2017 season. Dobbins took the opportunity and ran with it (literally).

By rushing for 181 yards on 29 carries and adding two catches for 24 yards, Dobbins immediately demonstrated his ability to be a star for the Buckeyes and led them to a 49-21 win over the Hoosiers. His 181 rushing yards were the most ever for a player in his Ohio State debut, topping a 175-yard effort against Texas Tech by Maurice Clarett in his first game as a Buckeye in 2002.

Highlighted by a 35-yard run on which he made multiple defenders miss early in the second quarter, Dobbins’ jump-cutting ability and quick feet were on display all night, and his performance solidified his place atop the Buckeyes’ running back depth chart even when Weber returned.

Dobbins’ first touchdown

Ohio State’s 2017 loss to Oklahoma certainly wasn’t a game that most of the Buckeyes want to remember, but it was the scene of Dobbins’ first career touchdown. After wiggling through the middle of the line to run into the end zone from 9 yards out, Dobbins channeled LeBron James to celebrate his first collegiate score in what was also his first home game at Ohio Stadium.

A breakaway TD vs. Army

While Dobbins’ first career touchdown came one week earlier, Dobbins really showed his home-run ability in his third game as a Buckeye, when he exploded through the Army defense for a 52-yard touchdown run.

That came on a day when Dobbins scored two touchdowns and had 172 rushing yards on just 13 carries. That performance, just like his debut game against Indiana, led to Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for Dobbins.

First receiving touchdown

Dobbins’ first and only receiving touchdown of his freshman year came in a blowout win over Michigan State, when he caught a swing pass from J.T. Barrett and then followed his blocks to the end zone for an 8-yard score.

That touchdown came on the same day that Dobbins topped the 1,000-yard mark for his career, becoming just the third freshman to hit that mark along with Clarett and Robert Smith (1990).

2017 Big Ten Championship Game MVP

Dobbins earned MVP honors for Ohio State’s 27-21 win over Wisconsin in the 2017 Big Ten Championship Game, in which he ran for 174 yards. That included a 77-yard run that didn’t quite go for a touchdown, as he was ruled to step out at the 1-yard line, but still ended up being the longest run of his entire Ohio State career.

On a night where he also had a 53-yard run, Dobbins officially surpassed Clarett to break Ohio State’s freshman rushing record. He finished his first season as a Buckeye with 1,403 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

First three-touchdown game

Dobbins didn’t have as many highlights in his sophomore season as he did as a freshman, as his overall production for the year took a big step back, but he did have a couple big games. His best game of the season came in a 36-31 win over Nebraska, in which he ran for 163 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns in a single game for the first time in his career.

Dobbins’ final touchdown of the game, which came from 42 yards out and ended up being the game-deciding score, was his longest run of 2018.

First 200-yard game

Dobbins split carries with Weber for most of his first two seasons at Ohio State, but when the Buckeyes needed him to carry the load with Weber sidelined for a game that went to overtime at Maryland in 2018, the sophomore running back stepped up.

On 37 carries, the most of his entire Ohio State career, Dobbins ran for 203 yards, marking the first time in his collegiate career that he topped two bills. In a game where both offenses marched up and down the field, all of those yards were crucial, as the Buckeyes barely escaped an embarrassing upset with a 52-51 win.

Another huge game in Bloomington

In his return to the scene of his famous debut last season, Dobbins ran all over Indiana again, gaining 193 yards on 22 carries and scoring two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). His performance in the Buckeyes’ 51-10 win included a 56-yard run on which he ran through a defensive tackle at the line of scrimmage and a 26-yard touchdown run on which he made multiple defenders miss.

For that performance, Dobbins earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career – but it wouldn’t be the last.

67-yard TD vs. Michigan State

Dobbins had one of his biggest plays of his record-breaking 2019 season in the sixth game of the year against Michigan State, when he outran the entire Spartans defense for a 67-yard touchdown run.

That run gave Ohio State a two-touchdown lead in a game the Buckeyes ultimately won 34-10 – still their most competitive of the 2019 season to that point – and was the longest touchdown run of Dobbins’ career at that time.

Another huge game against Wisconsin

Dobbins earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for the second time in 2019 after he ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns and added three catches for another 58 yards in Ohio State’s 38-7 win over Wisconsin in the Buckeyes’ eighth game of the year.

His highlight of that game came midway through the third quarter, when he delivered a punishing stiff-arm to knock Badgers linebacker Chris Orr to the ground en route to a 34-yard run.

Dobbins was also named the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week – he’d later be named the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Year – as the best offensive player from the state of Texas.

Dominance in Ann Arbor

Dobbins saved the best game of his Ohio State career for his final rivalry game against Michigan, as he ran for 211 yards and four touchdowns – both career-highs – on 31 carries, while he also added two catches for 49 yards, in the Buckeyes’ 56-27 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor in November.

Big performances against the team up north always mean a little more than a big game against anyone else for a Buckeye, and Dobbins had a spectacular afternoon in the Big House, including four plays of at least 28 yards.

As a result, Dobbins earned his fourth Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor of the season, having also received the award after rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns against Penn State one week earlier, and his Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week recognition of the year.

One last big game

Ohio State fell to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals last season, but it wasn’t for any lack of effort on Dobbins’ part. 

In the first quarter, Dobbins exploded through Clemson’s defense for a 68-yard touchdown run, then followed that up with a 64-yard run on the final play of the quarter. That second run was enough for Dobbins to break Eddie George’s single-season rushing record.

It was a far-from-perfect night for Dobbins in his final game as a Buckeye, as he dropped two second-quarter passes that could have been touchdowns and suffered a high ankle sprain late in the first half. He continued to battle through that injury all the way to the end of the game, though, to finish with 174 rushing yards – bringing him to 2,003 rushing yards for the season – as well as six catches for 49 yards, three of which came on Ohio State’s final possession.

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