Buckeyes in need of help at running back

Joey Kaufman
Mike Drennen II of Dublin Coffman is among at least six high school senior running backs to have received a scholarship offer from Ohio State. [John Hulkenberg/ThisWeek Newspapers]

The forecast changed abruptly.

Bijan Robinson, one of the top running back recruits in the class of 2020, had appeared likely to commit to Ohio State for most of the summer. But last month, days before he was to reveal his college decision, the Buckeyes were no longer listed as the favorite.

The crystal ball predictor used by 247Sports suddenly pegged Texas as the leader. Soon enough, Robinson committed to the Longhorns, a program slightly closer to his hometown of Tucson, Arizona.

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The announcement came after Kendall Milton, another of the Buckeyes' five-star running back targets, committed to Georgia, adding to a bit of a July blip.

Ohio State assembled a prolific recruiting class over the past few months, with 22 commitments. Most recruiting services rank the class in the top five in the nation and consider the group the best in the Big Ten.

It was a sizable step for first-year coach Ryan Day, who inherited the program from Urban Meyer as well as the recruiting machine that had been assembled during his nine seasons.

But the class remains unfinished with four months before the early signing period in December. The Buckeyes’ coaching staff remains in need of a running back prospect. They have commits from all other positions on offense and defense. There’s a kicker committed, too.

Running backs coach Tony Alford expressed little worry about the lack of a running back.

“We’ll be fine, put it that way,” Alford said last week. “We’ll get the guys who want to be here.”

Like other college coaches, Alford is prohibited from publicly mentioning high school players until they sign letters of intent.

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There are a half-dozen uncommitted targets left, if not more. At least six high school running backs have received offers from Ohio State.

The favorites are believed to be Kevontre Bradford of Lancaster, Texas; Mike Drennen II of Dublin Coffman; and EJ Smith of Dallas. All are rated as four-star recruits, and their interest in Ohio State is considered warm, according to 247Sports.

Smith is the son of Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and former Dallas Cowboys star. He included the Buckeyes among his preferred schools, along with Florida, Georgia, Stanford and Texas A&M, when he released his top-five list.

The Buckeyes’ coaching staff was prompted to further evaluate other targets when Robinson and Milton pledged elsewhere. Robinson’s commitment to Texas was believed to be a last-minute development.

“It happens,” Alford said. “It happens in every walk of life, in every job. Is it frustrating? Yeah, but people have got to do what they’ve got to do. It is what it is.”

The Buckeyes could use some additions at running back to provide depth next season.

J.K. Dobbins, the team’s leading returning rusher, is a junior and eligible to enter the NFL draft in April. His projected backup, Demario McCall, is a fourth-year junior with two seasons of eligibility. Three other scholarship running backs remain on the roster.


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