The key to J.K. Dobbins breakout season

Nick McWilliams, Staff Writer
Buckeye Grove
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Scott Stuart

COLUMBUS, Ohio - What running backs coach would not want a returning 1,000 yard rusher, and arguably one of the best freshman in the nation in his backfield?

Tony Alford said Tuesday Ohio State is working on getting both Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins on the field at the same time in the hopes of creating an even more dynamic offense and rushing attack. The duo has combined for 659 yards and six scores on the ground, even though Weber missed a large portion of time to start the season.

Dobbins has been electrifying in his fill-in role, and is averaging an absurd 7.6 yards per carry, which is ninth-best in the nation. He trails only one other freshman — Trey Ragas of Louisiana-Lafayette — who only has 46 carries to Dobbins' 75, and nearly 200 yards less rushing.

Clearly, Alford has struck gold with Dobbins. The doubters were there when he first made his way to Columbus, since he played football at a conference 4A, Division II high school in Texas.

In just five games, Dobbins has seemingly cast all doubters aside.

Alford said the success of Dobbins is thanks to the shifty movements of his lower body, and the devastating jump cuts he can make in an instant.

"Well, he's got great lateral quickness and movement first of all," Alford said. "And he's got great change of direction. He obviously works at it. And we work at it. He's an explosive athlete. Plain and simple."

Dobbins exploded onto the college football scene with a 29 carry, 181 yard performance against Indiana that broke the freshman first-game record held by Maurice Clarett. On his longest run of the day, Dobbins dished out two jump cuts to the left.

The first occurred just two yards beyond the line of scrimmage to move away from a hole opened by Michael Jordan and Jamarco Jones, before he again popped left to elude a Hoosiers' defender. From there, Dobbins flashed his speed by outrunning a pair of defenders to the left side of the field, and racing down the sideline before being bumped out at the Indiana 10-yard line.

That play is a microcosm of what Dobbins can bring to a team. Although Weber is credited to be the more physical runner of the two, Dobbins has a shifty twitch unmatched by any other Ohio State running back. Against Rutgers, Dobbins had a quiet game, receiving just six touches out of the backfield.

"J.K. Dobbins, I think he only had six carries," Urban Meyer said Monday. "We want to get him 12 to 15. But things happened, and all of a sudden you look up at the scoreboard and say, get him out of the game because there was no other reason that we pulled him out other than that."

Against a tougher opponent in Maryland, Dobbins will likely see more chances to make some magic with the ball in his hands.

Weber has no problems with sharing the load with his younger counterpart.

"We're roommates the day before the game in the hotel," Weber said. "And we always talk about stuff like that. Just being a good 1-2 punch. Our goal is to be the best one in the country."

Weber shined as a goal-line, power back against Rutgers, scoring three close touchdown runs. If you combine that ability with Dobbins' shiftiness, the best tandem in the nation in terms of running backs is not far off for Ohio State.

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