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Football: J.K. Dobbins carrying Ohio State offense through first three games

Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) runs the ball in for a touchdown in the third quarter of the 2017 OSU- Army game in Ohio Stadium on Sep. 16. OSU won 38-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins again made it known early on that he was going to have a major impact on the success of Ohio State’s offense.

After his first play of the game netted the team six yards, he carried the ball 36 yards three plays later to set his team up inside the red zone.

The rest of the game, it was more of the same as Dobbins continued to run all over the Army defense en route to a 172-yard game, spread out over just 13 carries and notching two of the team’s five touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 38-7 victory over the Black Knights.

“He’s a perfect tailback. He’s a space player that we need,” coach Urban Meyer said. 

Though Dobbins finished the game with eye-popping numbers, it took the offense a while to put the ball in his hands. The first-year running back finished the first half with just seven rushes for 63 yards, though he did make one rush count as it went for a 2-yard touchdown.

Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) celebrates with senior offensive linebacker Jamarco Jones (74) after scoring a touchdown in the third quarter of the 2017 OSU- Army game in Ohio Stadium on Sep. 16. OSU won 38-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

But he kicked off the third quarter with a bang, carrying the first handoff of the team’s first second-half drive 22 yards to Ohio State’s 48-yard line before taking the next handoff 52 yards to the house to cap off the drive to put the Buckeyes ahead 24-7.

To Dobbins, the run required just as much effort from him as it did from his teammates.

“I saw that my teammates were blocking very well for me, and then I just had to beat one person,” Dobbins said. “I kind of pride myself on beating the first person that gets there to me, so it was off to the races after that.”

This type of production is hardly anything new for the true freshman.

This season, he has totalled 425 yards on 55 carries (7.72 average yards per carry) with six rushes going for at least 20 yards. His first game broke an Ohio State record for most yards by a true freshman in his debut game, and his 13.2 average yards per carry against Army was a higher single-game average than former Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott averaged in any game.

With hot starts and impressive stat lines being a regular occurrence, it comes as no surprise Dobbins has been compared to the current Dallas Cowboys’ star, but nonetheless, Dobbins has been humbled by the praise.

“Zeke, he’s a legend here, and he’s such a great player. And you know, before I came here, I wanted to be like Zeke,” Dobbins said. “I knew I’d get a good start, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this.”

Ohio State redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) hands the ball to freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) in the first quarter of the 2017 OSU- Army game on Sep. 16. OSU won 38-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

How much the offense sees from Dobbins still remains somewhat of a mystery. Though redshirt sophomore Mike Weber has been held to only seven carries for 42 yards due to a lingering hamstring injury, he has continued to be listed as the co-starting running back on the team’s weekly depth chart and has been seen frequently running pre-game drills with the starters. 

Regardless of who is slotted in as the top running back for the team, wide receiver Terry McLaurin said he feels confident that Dobbins will make the most of any role he is used in and will continue to be a boost to the offense.

“He’s that home run hitter that you want back there,” McLaurin said. “Him and Mike are a great one-two punch and you know if you do your job on the perimeter, he’s going to make one guy miss and he’s going to turn on the jets and do what he does and we’re just excited to have him on our side.”

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