J.K. Dobbins is Back and Better Than Before

Photo: © Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State is without question one of the hottest teams in the country and it's no secret as to why they have come storming out of the gates. Off to a red-hot 7-0 start, the Buckeyes are starting to make observers believe that the best team in the country resides in Columbus, Ohio. 

The NCAA granting immediately eligibility to transfer quarterback Justin Fields is the one reasoning as to what most will attribute the teams success too, but the players that were previously on the roster deserve plenty of credit as well. One of them is running back J.K. Dobbins.

After having a subpar season in 2018, he has experienced an impressive bounce back season, as he is only 106 rushing yards away from his total from a season ago (1,053). Set to easily surpass his previous mark, Dobbins has returned in 2019 to give him the offense an extra boost from the backfield. 

Originally named J’Kaylin Dobbins, J.K. has persevered through a lot in his life, but a lot of credit goes to his mother, Mya Grounds. A former star high school basketball and volleyball player, an unexpected arrival of her son at 18-years-old ended her college aspirations athletically, but she didn’t let that stop her from making ends meet.

Grounds drove 100 miles total back and forth each week in order to obtain her finance degree from the University of Houston. Her hustle and tireless work ethic paid off as she’s now an accountant for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). J.K.’s father, Lawrence, tragically passed away when he was only 15-years old due to heart complications and following suffering a stroke at 33 years old, that would be the final time that he would see one of his biggest heroes.

Lawrence was a former star running back in his own right at La Grange High School (Texas). The same school that his son would wind up carrying on his legacy at. Always playing with a heavy heart and the unfulfilled aspiration of his father, Dobbins unfortunately suffered a broken right leg during the first game of his senior season, but he finished his career with 5,149 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns during the three seasons prior to.

Choosing Ohio State and enrolling early (Jan. 2017), he became only the sixth true freshman in program history to start a season opener -- joining Maurice Clarett (2002) as the only other running back to accomplish the feat. During that season, he started all 14 games and recorded a freshman record 1,403 rushing yards. His 7.2 yards per carry average was the second-highest ever in program history.

He followed up his impressive freshman campaign with another consistent season, collecting 1,053 yards and 12 total touchdowns on 230 carries, which helped him become a second-team All-Big Ten selection, but he fell short of many of his goals after a standout first year.

Where He Wins (+)

Dobbins is a short and choppy stepper as a runner. His feet are always active with small hop and skip steps, but after seeing the hole, Dobbins is able to accelerate through it as soon as his plant foot hits the ground. He shows to have a high level of balance as a runner and there’s hardly ever a situation of where he’s stuck in no man’s land. Always looking to move vertical and when unable to, Dobbins sticks his nose to the ground and grinds his feet forward to ensure positive yardage.

He always keeps his shoulders over his toes as a runner. Dobbins exhibits a heavy amount of forward lean and always allows his momentum to continue to move in a vertical path. Already being low to the ground and an onward pad level enable him to strongly finish runs with a purpose. He runs the gauntlet with his pads at near ground level with plenty of fire behind his feet, making it difficult for tacklers to bring him down.

He's terrific at identifying fronts, blitzes, and most immediate dangerous threats. There's little hesitation with stepping up and taking on contact. Dobbins isn't scared to stick his head into the fan and initiate contact. He will do everything in his power to protect the quarterback behind him. Enjoys and fully embraces giving up his body in order to fulfill the physicality aspect of pass protection. He's shown to have natural hands as a pass catcher. Dobbins isn't simply just a check down runner and he's proven to be a frequent option in the Buckeyes passing attack from many spots.

Where He Must Improve (-)

He's more of a "take advantage of what’s there and then grind it out for hidden yardage" type of runner. Reluctant to create new opportunities due to making defenders miss or by breaking high amounts of tackles. Shown to be fine with taking advantage of the yards that blocked up for him and then running through tight regions in order to tack on a few extra yards. Possessing a thick lower body helps him grind through some would be tacklers, but it’s not an area he makes a living off of consistently.

After a monstrous freshman season, there was a sense of an underwhelming season as a sophomore. He took a step back in most major categories for unknown reasons. Maintaining his consistency and not dropping off in certain areas will be a trait that has to be shown. Returning to his freshman form and staying close to that range will help boost his draft if shown that he can remain on that level and carry it over for an extended time period, which he has done so so far this season.

Dobbins is a heavy left hand ball carrier. He has spurts of where he puts it in his right arm, but he doesn’t look nearly as comfortable with it as when it’s in the opposite hand. Dobbins leaves the ball exposed to make life easy on defenders who are attempting to create turnovers.

Written By:

Jordan Reid

Senior NFL Draft Analyst

Jordan Reid is a Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Gaining experience from various lenses of the game, he has previously served as a college quarterback, position coach, and recruiting coordinator at North Carolina Central University. He now serves as a Color Commentator for FloSports, covering both high school and college football games around the country while also being the host of The Reid Option Podcast.