Ohio State’s season started with concern about the running game. Mike Weber, who topped 1,000 yards last season, was out because of a torn hamstring.
But J.K. Dobbins erased those fears.
The freshman from La Grange, Texas, gained 181 yards rushing in the opener, a win at Indiana, and has kept on charging, even with Weber’s return. Seven games in, Dobbins has rushed for 775 yards. He might even have Maurice Clarett’s OSU freshman record — 1,237 yards, set in 2002 — in sight with at least six games to go.
Going into this weekend, a bye for the Buckeyes, Dobbins stands No. 2 in the Big Ten at 110.7 yards per game. That’s well behind his primary competition for conference freshman of the year, Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin (164.3), but ahead of third-place Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (108.2), who is considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
Yet Dobbins seems to be paying attention only to what his efforts have meant for Ohio State.
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“I’m glad I can help my team get a spark,” Dobbins said. “I’m a team guy. I just want to help my team.”
Dobbins has given Ohio State a threat at running back similar to what Ezekiel Elliott offered in 2014 and ’15, something coach Urban Meyer said was missing last season from the otherwise solid performance of Weber. Dobbins has two 52-yard runs, including one for a touchdown last week at Nebraska.
Discussing such things, however, Dobbins always defers to the team and how he fits into the overall game plan. When asked for his thoughts about when he first sees green in front of him on one of those breakaway runs, Dobbins was quick to credit others.
“When I see the green I’ve gotta score,” Dobbins said. “The guys who are blocking — I see everyone blocking. It’s a beautiful thing for me to see. I can’t thank my guys enough who are blocking for me.”