Better Know a Buckeye: James Peoples' Well-Rounded Skill Set Gives Him the Potential to Be an Every-Down Back for Ohio State Beginning in 2025

By Josh Poloha on April 25, 2024 at 10:10 am
James Peoples

Better Know A Buckeye is our look at every member of Ohio State’s 2024 recruiting class and how they became Buckeyes as they prepare to begin their OSU careers this fall.

James Peoples is, somehow, underrated in terms of his ranking in the 2024 recruiting class.

The four-star running back has the playmaking ability to be a dynamic runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield with speed, lateral agility and trucking power. The No. 8 running back (No. 114 overall) in the 2024 class, Peoples is the type of playmaker Ohio State wants (and needs) in the backfield.

James Peoples

  • Size: 5-10/203
  • Pos: RB
  • School: Veterans Memorial (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Star Rating: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #114 (#8 RB)

How He Became a Buckeye

All it took was two visits to Columbus for Peoples to decide he would move to the Ohio state capital for his college career.

He received an OSU offer following a recruiting camp in the summer of 2022 and committed to the Buckeyes less than a year later on April 2, 2023 after a three-day visit to Ohio State.

After missing out on Jordan Marshall, the No. 4 running back in the class who nixed his in-state school and committed to Michigan, the Buckeyes needed a spark at running back in the 2024 recruiting class. That came when Peoples committed to Ohio State over his other five finalists: Oklahoma, Alabama, Texas, TCU and Oregon.

While Peoples grew up in San Antonio, his father is a native of Clevland and his mother is from Youngstown, a connection that helped Ohio State in its pursuit of Peoples.

“There’s a lot of great things about Ohio State. But they always have a great offensive line. To be able to run behind a crew like that and play with the best in the nation is one of the most important things (to me),” Peoples told Eleven Warriors. “But (also), my parents were both born in Ohio, and something that was big on my list is my family making it to games. That was appealing about Ohio State, too.”

High School Years

Peoples began to make a name for himself on the recruiting trail in his junior season. His third year in high school was his best as he carried the ball 208 times for 2,044 yards and 30 touchdowns while also adding 16 receptions for 294 yards and three scores through the air. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in less than six games. Peoples earned Texas District 13-5A D-II Co-MVP that year.

Although he missed most of his senior season with an undisclosed injury, Peoples was still able to run for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns on 92 carries.

Along with dominating on the gridiron, Peoples proved his speed and athleticism in track and field. As a freshman, he ran a 12.41 100, a 25.14 200 and long jumped 19-2. He followed that up by running a 15.81-second 110-meter hurdles and long jumping 21-3.75 his sophomore year.

Immediate Impact

Given that Ohio State has the best running back duo and possibly even the two best running backs – TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins – in college football this fall, significant playing time could be hard to come by for any running back other than that pair.

Peoples could very well be third on the depth chart behind the two upperclassmen, but Henderson and Judkins will likely play most of the snaps if they stay healthy. That said, Peoples can make his case to be the next man up behind them by impressing the coaching staff and his peers in practice, much like he has already done as an early enrollee.

“It's great to see both James and (fellow freshman running back Sam Williams-Dixon) coming in as freshmen and picking it up quickly. You can see both of them, they have talent,” Ryan Day said at the beginning of April.

Long-Term Impact

With Henderson and Judkins both potentially leaving for the 2025 NFL draft following the upcoming season, Ohio State's competition for the starting running back spot could be wide open a season from now.

Peoples could very well be in pole position to be RB1 to begin his sophomore season. If Judkins enters the draft early, Peoples and Williams-Dixon would be the only returning scholarship running backs on the roster, not including members of the 2025 recruiting class and potential transfer portal additions.

At 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds, Peoples already has the type of build needed to succeed at the college level. If he can continue to bulk up without losing quickness and athleticism, he has the upside to emerge as the Buckeyes’ next star running back as soon as next year.

“My best attribute of my game is my vision, probably,” Peoples said when he committed to OSU. “My agility and quick feet to move the way I move. But it’s hard (to say what his best trait is) because I’m a great receiver, I was a receiver before I was a running back and I’m great at catching the ball, great in open space and hitting tight holes. But overall my vision and ability to hit the hole quick is probably it.”

Player Comparison: J.K. Dobbins

Both Texas products, their state isn't the only thing Peoples and Dobbins have in common, as Peoples’ skill set as both a runner and pass-catcher is comparable to that which made Dobbins a star in Columbus.

While Peoples isn’t likely to play as much as Dobbins did as a freshman, he has the potential to make a similar impact by the end of his career and develop into an early-round draft pick like Dobbins, a second-round selection in the 2020 NFL draft.

Dobbins totaled 725 carries for 4,459 yards and 38 touchdowns while also adding 71 catches for 645 yards and five touchdowns in just three seasons as a Buckeye. Living up to what Dobbins did during his time at Ohio State will certainly be a tough task, but trying to elevate his game to that standard is a good goal for Peoples as he begins his Buckeye career.

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