Through two seasons at Ohio State, sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins has shown the capability to be one of the most dominant running backs in college football.
In his freshman season, after getting the starting position due to then-redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber’s hamstring injury, Dobbins impressed, amassing 1,403 yards on 7.2 yards per carry.
As the primary back, with Weber mostly being used as a secondary option, Dobbins consistently gained momentum and made his impact known.
This season, with both Weber and Dobbins at full strength, it was expected the duo would become one of the most lethal backfield combinations in the NCAA.
That didn’t happen quite as hoped.
“I think I did lose a little bit of mojo,” Dobbins said.
Dobbins is barely over 1,000 yards, sitting at 1,029 through 13 games, and Weber sits at 858 yards. Both have the lowest yards-per-carry averages of their Ohio State careers, with Dobbins dropping more than two yards from the season before with 4.6 yards per rush.
The Buckeyes failed to reach 100 yards rushing in back-to-back games in the middle of the season against Minnesota and Purdue, the first two times that has happened since the loss in the 2016 College Football Playoff to Clemson.
Ohio State ranks No. 57 in rush offense with 175.8 yards per game. In 2017, the Buckeyes were No 17. In 2015 and 2016, they were up to No. 11.
Blame could be shifted to the offensive line, but Dobbins thinks it had more to do with the momentum both him and Weber failed to find at times throughout the year.
“It was just we weren’t getting it going,” Dobbins said. “When we got it going, I got my mojo back, and I feel like I got the same burst that I had last year.”
When looking back at the season, Dobbins’ star performances came against Nebraska and Maryland. He rushed 23 times for 163 yards and three touchdowns in the five-point victory against the Cornhuskers. Weber rushed the ball nine times.
The sophomore running back cited that game as the one that was the start of getting his mojo back.
“I got into a rhythm,” Dobbins said. “It’s kind of hard switching drives every single drive.”
In the 52-51 overtime victory against the Terrapins, Dobbins broke 200 yards, finishing with 203 yards and a score while Weber missed the game with a hamstring injury.
Dobbins said immediately following the game he enjoyed being the only back taking carries. On Saturday, he said that game felt like a return to form for him, just like the matchup two weeks prior against Nebraska.
“Yeah, it was, I must say. But it’s great that I could do that again, and it’s a great feeling,” Dobbins said. “Hopefully next year, I can do the same.”
After a season of splitting carries, Weber announced he will forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, something Dobbins said he wasn’t aware of.
“I didn’t,” Dobbins said. “I never know what’s going on with him, so I didn’t know.”
This leaves Dobbins as the likely sole back for the Buckeyes to rely on, with freshmen Brian Snead, who hasn’t been seen since Week 2 after missing the trip to TCU due to disciplinary action, and Master Teague, who found minimal time in four games this season.
With Weber, leaves a duo that was once labeled a “two-headed monster” by offensive coordinator Ryan Day. With Weber’s departure leaves a seemingly unbeatable duo that never lived up to the potential it once had.
But as one opportunity goes, an opportunity for Dobbins to become the dominant back he was a season ago returns.
If Dobbins was coach next year, he said he would not implement the same system that Ohio State attempted in 2018.
“If the best running back is playing well, I’ll keep him going.”