COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State junior running back J.K. Dobbins has had the definition of an “up and down” career since arriving in Columbus back in the spring of 2017.
Dobbins wasn’t supposed to be the starting running back at the beginning of his true freshman season in 2017, but that’s exactly what ended up happening when 2016 returning starting running back Mike Weber was sidelined with an injury for the season opener at Indiana.
Many were wondering how the freshman with absolutely no collegiate playing experience would handle the pressure on a team whose goal was to return to the College Football Playoff to erase the memory of their embarrassing shutout loss to Clemson the season before.
Dobbins blew away everyone’s expectations and set an Ohio State school record for the most rushing yards in a debut game for a freshman as he ran all over the Hoosiers for a whopping 181 yards on 29 carries in the Buckeyes’ 49-21 victory in their season opener.
With Weber being limited for most of the season while recovering from his hamstring injury, the true freshman continued to dominate the Big Ten and garner national attention as he set a school record for the most rushing yards by a freshman with 1,403 yards on the ground, blowing away Maurice Clarett’s previous record of 1,237 rushing yards in 2002.
After his record-setting freshman season, Dobbins went into his sophomore season with one of the best odds to win the 2018 Heisman Trophy.
That dream would not come to fruition as Ohio State failed to establish their traditional elite running game for most of the season as Dobbins and co-starter Mike Weber split reps for the entire season in a rushing attack that didn’t pan out the way the Buckeyes hoped it would.
Even through all of Ohio State’s problems with the run game in 2018, Dobbins still managed to become the first player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark in both his freshman and sophomore seasons by posting 1,053 yards in 2018. However, he did so on 36 more carries than he had in his freshman campaign and he saw a significant drop in his rushing average, as he averaged just 4.6 yards per carry in 2018 compared to 7.2 yards per carry in 2017.
“I (regressed) last year,” said Dobbins. “I didn’t have the year I needed to have and I put that on myself and I’ll get back to that this upcoming year… I just have to get better.”
Despite the setback last season in the running game, Dobbins is approaching this spring the same way he says he’s approached every spring since coming to Ohio State as a freshman.
“I just want to be legendary,” said Dobbins. “I want to be like Ezekiel Elliott, Archie Griffin, and guys like that, to write my name in stone.”
Dobbins could become that kind of Buckeye legend with a stellar junior season as the third-year running back could join Archie Griffin this season as only the second running back in Ohio State history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in three consecutive seasons.
With co-starting running back from last season Mike Weber headed off to the NFL, the team now relies solely on Dobbins to be the leader of the Buckeye rushing attack.
“The plan going in right now is that he’s going to be the back,” said new head coach Ryan Day about J.K. Dobbins’ role this coming season.
Dobbins says he’s shaved off some body fat this off-season and, from what I’ve seen in the two practices so far, he’s showing that as his speed and ability to make a cut on a dime without losing that speed is better than ever.
“I’m going to keep working hard, keep getting better day-by-day. and we’ll see where it goes from there,” said Dobbins.
If Dobbins continues to progress like this over the course of spring and summer football, it could be a fall full of national praise for the third-year running back.
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