Football JK Dobbins shines in first game as starter at running back

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Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) watches as teammate J.T. Barrett runs the ball for a touchdown during the season opener vs Indiana. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorBLOOMINGTON, Ind — From the first play in Ohio State’s 49-21 win over Indiana, the Buckeyes’ offense was carried by running back J.K. Dobbins — a true freshman.Two plays later, he caught a pass on a wheel route for 18 yards. And for the rest of the game, it was more of the same as he continued to demonstrate both his ability to shake defenders loose with his elusiveness in the open field, as well as the physicality needed to plow through the defensive line.For coach Urban Meyer, Dobbins’ big performance Thursday was less of a shock and more of a reflection of what the coaches have seen since he arrived in Columbus.“I kind of tempered my emotions with [the media] early on, because we have seen that since spring practice. He has had a hell of a camp,” Meyer said.OSU freshman running back J.K. Dobbins (2) carries the ball during the Spring Game on April 15. Scarlet beat Gray 38-31. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Former Photo EditorBy the end of the game, Dobbins had set a record for the most rushing yards by an Ohio State first-year running back in the first game of the season with 182 yards on 29 carries.He did not enter the week as the starter, however.In the team’s depth chart, Dobbins was listed as an ‘Or’ alongside Mike Weber, last season’s starter. Meyer noted Thursday night that Weber was still only at 80 percent and that while Weber could have gone, the preference was to not play him.The chance to start came at a time when Dobbins had southeast Texas on his mind. The native of La Grange, Texas, which is a 101-mile drive west of Houston, said his family has been safe from the effects of Hurricane Harvey that has ravaged the Houston area since last weekend, but he still has friends in the city who have dealt with the storm’s destruction.“[I] kind of thought of it as motivation for me because I’m probably the only positive thing going on in my town right now,” Dobbins said. “I just thought of it as bringing my city up. So, that’s why I came out here and played as hard as I could.”Then, a couple days before the game, Dobbins learned he would be starting in his first game with the Buckeyes, and would get that chance to provide a light for what has been a dark time in his hometown. “I thought I was going to start midway through the week whenever Weber was — he’s having a hamstring problem so, I just, when I heard that I just thought of it as an open opportunity for me,” Dobbins said.Nearly two weeks ago, running backs coach Tony Alford, said he believed the freshman would have a substantial impact this season. After his performance against the Hoosiers, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, who worked out with Dobbins during the summer, said the 18-year-old’s dedication to the work and ability to make challenging tasks look effortless has really caught his eye.Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins prepares for practice at fall camp on Aug. 5. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor.“A lot of kids come in and they don’t really have it from Day One. [Dobbins] had it from Day One,” Dixon said. “Even watching him in spring, I’m like, this kid is amazing. And I knew that he would get out here and do the same thing we see in practice all the time. It was just, nobody else really know because they don’t see it. But the kid — the sky’s the limit for that kid for sure.”Judging from the Texan’s performance on the big stage, Meyer said he seems some of the same characteristics in Dobbins that he saw in another former running back.“He’s close [to Ezekiel Elliott]. Yeah, he’s very similar to Zeke,” Meyer said. “Very similar about the way he works. He handles his business like a pro. I mean he walked in like a grown man.”Though the players and coaches see a potential breakout talent in Dobbins, Meyer said he is expecting Weber to return next week and for him to slide right back into the mix for playing time.Meyer would not go so far as to say who would be out there taking the opening snaps in the against Oklahoma on Sept. 9, but he said he knows he can expect more of the same from Dobbins in the weeks to come.“J.K. Weber,” Meyer said jokingly, when asked who would start next week. “We get Mike back next week, and that is going to be a nice one-two punch. J.K. has even more in the tank.”

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