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Ohio State: How will Buckeyes spread around offensive touches?

Ohio State-Tony Alford-Ohio State football-Buckeyes
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford will be looking to establish a pecking order this spring. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Ohio State: How will Buckeyes spread around offensive touches?

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics on Ryan Day and the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about offensive touches? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

J.K. Dobbins is ready to work, and Ohio State is going to give him all he can handle this season now that he’s going to officially, definitively be the primary tailback.

But the loss of Mike Weber opens up a lot of touches, and Dobbins surely isn’t going to be able to absorb all of them. Between his carries and catches, Weber had the football in his hands almost 200 times during his final season with the Buckeyes, and that’s far too much to ask of Dobbins no matter how willing he might be to try.

So, where will they all go? For starters, a number of those rushing attempts might come from the quarterback position if Justin Fields winds up winning the starting job. Even as Ohio State expands and evolves the passing attack, an athlete with the mobility of Fields is going to be used in some capacity as a rusher. Odds are Ryan Day won’t be trying to run him as frequently as J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller, but the zone read and some designed attempts are surely going to be part of the playbook.

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields could be a factor as rushing threat for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

After that, the obvious place to look will be the backup tailback spot. And that’s going to be a fascinating battle throughout spring and all the way into training camp. At this point, it’s far too early to call that race with Demario McCall injured right now, Master Teague easing into the rotation and Marcus Crowley having only been through two practices without pads as an early enrollee.

All three bring something to the table for the Buckeyes, and it may allow Day to mix and match as he finds complements for Dobbins. If McCall is healthy and improves his ball security, Ohio State will certainly find ways to unleash his dynamic speed and elusiveness. Teague might be the best short-yardage option right now on the roster, and Crowley is already generating some buzz that the Buckeyes found an underrated gem on the recruiting trail.

Assuming that all of those guys help shoulder the rushing load and pick up Weber’s slack, that might open the door for wide receiver K.J.Hill to maybe, possibly climb into one of the top couple spots in touches. Hill hasn’t been all that successful as a rushing threat in the H-back spot, but he’s coming off another productive season with 70 catches — and with Parris Campbell not around, that number figures to go up during his final campaign with the program. It might not soar all the way to making the senior second in terms of overall workload, but Hill is undoubtedly going to be one of the primary weapons in the attack.

Really, the only certainty is that J.K. Dobbins is going to be in for a hell of a lot of action this season, and after that Ohio State has enough options at the skill positions to truly spread around the touches evenly. Is this a copout answer? Maybe, but it’s also reminder of just how deep this offense will be in the fall.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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