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Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins could have an even better year in 2018.

Can Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins finish stronger than last season?

Ryan Ginn

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Although he wasn’t playing poorly by any stretch, I noticed toward the end of last season that freshman running back J.K. Dobbins started getting caught from behind on long runs more often. This was a slightly different problem than Mike Weber had as a redshirt freshman, when he generally lacked the burst he showed in 2018, but there’s still room for improvement in both areas you mentioned.

In some ways, Dobbins is naturally set up to have a better year because he’ll almost certainly enter this season in more favorable circumstances. He sustained a season-ending injury on the first play of his senior season of high school, meaning until he debuted for Ohio State in the opener against Indiana he had played one play in an actual football game since 2015. Furthermore, Weber’s absence in that game — and large chunks of the season — meant Dobbins shouldered a heavier-than-expected load from the outset. It’s sometimes hard for freshmen to adjust going from 10 games to 14, but Dobbins had the added burden of more carries than expected combined with a long layoff beforehand. With a year of experience under his belt and a healthy Weber to share carries with, Dobbins should be fresher down the stretch than he was in 2017.

Of course, Ohio State doesn’t leave such things to chance. A few days after the spring game, running backs coach Tony Alford said Dobbins is working to build up his endurance and burst.

“I think that’s a lot of just strength and speed training with our strength and conditioning coach, Coach Mick [Marotti],” Alford said. “The kid can run. I think some of it had to do with him getting worn out at the end of the year because there were a lot of reps in training camp and throughout the season, but that’s not an excuse. He’s got to build up some more stamina as we progress through the year.”

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