Ohio State’s recruiting class added its third member on Monday evening when 4-star Indiana running back Sampson James, the No. 8 running back in the 2019 recruiting class, took to Twitter to pledge to the Buckeyes. James joins fellow 2019 Buckeyes commits Doug Nester and Ryan Jacoby in Ohio State’s burgeoning recruiting class.
The Avon (Ind.) native is the No. 2 prospect in Indiana’s 2019 class and the No. 142 player nationally on the 247Sports composite rankings. James chose Ohio State while on campus for an unofficial visit on Monday. He picked the Buckeyes over offers from Michigan, Notre Dame, Indiana, Penn State, Georgia, Florida State, Nebraska and several other big-time programs.
What does Sampson James bring on the field?
James is what Ohio State looks for physically in its running backs. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, James is big enough to take the beating that comes with Big Ten football. He will continue to add muscle in the weight room. The four current scholarship Buckeyes running backs – Mike Weber, J.K. Dobbins, Antonio Williams and Master Teague – are listed between 5-10 and 5-11 and 210 and 215 pounds.
The Indiana running back also flashes big-play ability, frequently hitting the line and then blowing through the second level before pulling away from pursuing safeties and linebackers. He is more of an explosive one-cut back who likes to put his foot on the ground and go, but he can dance in the backfield or open space a little if you need him to. James’ pull-away speed probably doesn’t match up to Dobbins, a 2017 signee and Freshman All-American last year, but he has plenty of burst and top-end speed.
James is a ferocious blocker, and he seems to relish the opportunity to dish out some punishment to linebackers. He will have to continue to learn new assignments when he gets to college, but he has a good knack for picking up blitzes and plays in a spread offense that is comparable to what Ohio State recently has run.
I would like to see James continue to develop as a route runner out of the backfield. Along with blocking, the ability to be used as a receiving threat is critical to earn early playing time at Ohio State. When James arrives on campus in Columbus in 2019, Ohio State’s current top three running backs – Dobbins, Weber and Williams – will be gone or likely in their final season on campus, assuming that Dobbins departs for the NFL after his junior year. James will have a chance to compete for early playing time.
What does Sampson James’ commitment mean in recruiting?
What more can you say? This is yet another huge win for Urban Meyer, running backs coach Tony Alford and the Ohio State staff in the Midwest. The Buckeyes went into the Indianapolis area and beat out Notre Dame and Michigan for one of the top recruits in the Midwest yet again.
Ohio State is nearly always the favorite for every prospect in Ohio, Indiana or Illinois. The Buckeyes’ dominance of the Midwest has been a huge factor in their rise to the top tier of the recruiting rankings year after year. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that the Buckeyes will take the top two players from Indiana in this class. They are the clear leader for top-100 prospect and elite wide receiver David Bell of Indianapolis Warren Central.
From a recruiting standpoint, locking up an elite running back close to home gives Ohio State a ton of breathing room. The Buckeyes can sit back and afford to be much more choosy at running back now. It is unclear if the Buckeyes will take a second back in this class – it is plausible but hasn’t been determined, I’m told – but if they do, they won’t need to reach.
You probably can count the number of remaining realistic running back options for Ohio State in 2019 on your fingers. The big triumvirate of national names – Noah Cain, Trey Sanders and Quavaris Crouch – still will be recruited by Ohio State, but Sanders and Crouch feel like long shots. The No. 5 back in the class, Devyn Ford, has an official visit scheduled to Ohio State in April. Offered running backs such as South Florida standouts Kenny McIntosh and Daniel Carter and Texas prospect Deondrick Glass are in the mix.
An interesting wrinkle to James’ commitment is that it also allows Ohio State more time to evaluate three big-time Ohio running backs whom they have not offered. Dayton (Ohio) Archbishop Alter prospect John Bivens, Euclid (Ohio) native Brandon Wright and Columbus (Ohio) Northland standout John Branham Jr. have been in frequent contact with the Buckeyes. I think Bivens is the best of the bunch, but a knee injury has kept him out of offseason activities, so he may need to wait until the fall to impress the Ohio State coaching staff.
Check out Sampson James’ highlights
Take a gander at the new Ohio State commit’s junior season highlights. James proved he can be a bell-cow back, averaging nearly 20 carries a game during Avon’s season. James finished with 1,782 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 243 carries. He added 2 touchdowns and 185 yards on 16 receptions.
Clarification: This article has been updated to explain J.K. Dobbins’ eligibility after the 2019 season.