COLUMBUS, Ohio ― J.K. Dobbins needs the football in his hands.
Early. Consistently. And so much more often than the star freshman has been getting it lately.
Ohio State is at its best when Dobbins carries the ball. Just about everybody can see that, from the defensive coordinators scheming ways to slow him down, to the fan base screaming for his workload to increase and all the way to Urban Meyer, who has acknowledged it himself.
Only one of those people can do anything about it, and it’s time for Meyer to demand a change.
As recently as last week, the Ohio State coach had made it clear he has no intentions to meddle with how the attempts are spread around in the backfield. And it’s fine not to be a micromanager when the Buckeyes are winning and everything is running smoothly. But when there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, that calls for management to step in and get it fixed.
This is a problem for Ohio State, make no mistake about that. Dobbins carried the ball just 6 times in the embarrassing blowout loss at Iowa.
Six rushes for perhaps the most electrifying freshman in college football.
Six attempts for Ohio State’s starting tailback.
Six carries on the road against a conference opponent in a matchup that was always going to be decided by who was more physical and could establish a ground game.
That’s just not enough, point blank. Even when Ohio State was in the midst of its winning streak, it was fair to wonder why Dobbins hadn’t had more than 14 carries since the season opener at Indiana, when he burst on the scene with Mike Weber injured and ran it 29 eye-popping times.
It’s not too late to address it. The margin for error in the Big Ten race has now vanished after the debacle at Iowa, but there is still time to correct that and ride Dobbins on the way to a conference crown. And believe me, if the boss asks for something to be done a certain way at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, he’s going to get his way.
“We have conversation about it if there’s a huge disparity,” Meyer said. “And I think [Weber] is playing hard. I think J.K. is our starter, had a couple of nice runs. But those are things we talk about. Once again, I think [running backs coach Tony] Alford does a nice job. He should have more than 6 carries, but we got behind and started throwing it a lot.
“Those are certainly conversations, because J.K. deserves the ball.”
There are times when Dobbins simply isn’t going to get it, and there have been justifiable reasons why his workload has been relatively light this season.
Obviously splitting time with another talented tailback like Weber is going to chip away at the chances for the starter. Ohio State’s development in the passing game also has played a factor, and the rise of J.T. Barrett and his wide receivers lessened the importance of leaning on the rushing attack during the six-game winning streak. The Buckeyes also played a bunch of blowouts in a row and didn’t need to risk getting Dobbins injured.
And then there’s the way teams choose to defend the Buckeyes. Iowa couldn’t have made it more clear who it wanted rushing the football if it had rolled out a red carpet in front of Barrett on the zone read, effectively leaving him no choice but to keep it and rack up more than twice as many attempts as Dobbins.
“That’s hard, because that’s exactly what Iowa was doing,” Meyer said. “Those weren’t designed [quarterback] runs. They were going to take the balls out of J.K.’s hands, a lot of those runs.
“Those are all things we have to game plan and continue to work and find ways to give handoffs to the tailback.”
Ohio State has other ways of getting Dobbins the football, and it needs to use them.
Meyer has built a program around establishing one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the country, unleashing an elite running back behind it and piling up yardage and wins with a powerful ground game that in turn helps set up play-action passes.
Rediscovering that approach is the best way for the Buckeyes to get back on track and win the Big Ten.
Dobbins needs the football for it to work. Now it’s up to Meyer to make sure that he gets it.
The post J.K. Dobbins needs the football more; it’s time Urban Meyer gives it to him appeared first on Land of 10.
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