Ryan Day is best known for his impact on the passing game since joining the Ohio State coaching staff in 2017.
He is also developing a reputation as a quarterback guru, but it sounds like the running backs are looming large in the mind of the new head coach of the Buckeyes as the preseason approaches.
“That’s a position that really has to have a good August,” Day said at Big Ten Football Media Days.
Running back, perhaps the most-storied position in Ohio State history, provides both a known quantity and uncertainty at this point in the year.
J.K. Dobbins is the returning starter after running for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons in scarlet and gray.
Day has identified him on multiple occasions as someone who needs to have a big 2019 season, but what about his backups?
There are plenty of names but not much production.
On top of that, the top two candidates to back up Dobbins (Marcus Crowley and Demario McCall) were slowed by injuries in spring ball.
“So now you’re talking Marcus Crowley and J.K. in the spring, now fast forward to August,” Day said. “J.K., who is gonna be the bell cow, but Master has to step up for us. Demario McCall has so much ability, when see what did down stretch for us, where he creates issues for defenses. he’s gotta play for us. Those two guys, we need production, and the more production the more they’ll play.”
Although Dobbins said in March he wants “all the carries,” most would agree that is not realistic.
Even if he is the No. 1 offensive threat as new quarterback Justin Fields develops, Dobbins will be more effective if he can stay fresh.
And if Fields isn’t ready to be another Dwayne Haskins right away — and that is almost certainly going to be the case considering Haskins himself needed most of the season to round into the type of quarterback who can carry a team against good competition — the running backs figure to be asked to pick up the slack.
Will Teague or McCall be able to answer the bell? Or will it be one of the true freshmen, Crowley and Steele Chambers?
“It’s a long season,” Day said. "That’s a position you can play young, so we need at least two of those guys to step up — if not three.”
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