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Improved rushing attack will be key for tweaked Ohio State offense

J.K. Dobbins-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins is looking to get the ground game rolling again for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Improved rushing attack will be key for tweaked Ohio State offense

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 about 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 the Ohio State offense heading into the summer? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

The first two months of practices for Justin Fields are only a starting point, and his struggles in the Ohio State spring game itself shouldn’t be taken all that seriously. But it’s fair at this point to acknowledge that for all of the potential the five-star transfer brings to the Buckeyes, he’s not going to be the same kind of passer that Dwayne Haskins was last season.

But Haskins could also never dream of being the kind of dual-threat weapon that Fields will be this year. So, that’s just one reason to look to the rushing attack for the Buckeyes as being critical to keeping Ryan Day’s attack humming along.

Ohio State is still going to throw the football plenty. With the quality receivers and tight ends they have returning, the hard-to-defend concepts Day has brought to the offense and Fields not exactly lacking when it comes to arm strength or accuracy, the Buckeyes will air it out. But they should be much more balanced this season, especially with J.K. Dobbins returning to carry the load at tailback and an offensive line that looks to be deeper and likely with a higher upside than last year.

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State newcomer Justin Fields brings plenty of mobility with him as the quarterback of the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Fields is going to be part of that equation, of course. And while Ohio State isn’t likely to go back to the days of racking up huge numbers of carries for the quarterback like it did with Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett, some of the option plays Day has installed are likely to feature Fields using his feet in spots where Haskins used his arm. Considering his athleticism, it would be foolish not to use that mobility.

But it’s Dobbins who should really benefit from the training-camp emphasis on the ground game. The junior has been upfront and honest in his assessment about his play a year ago, recognizing that he tried too hard at times looking for huge gains at the expense of doing what the Buckeyes asked of him. Part of that, obviously, was due to the split workload with Mike Weber, but that’s not going to be a problem anymore. Dobbins will be the guy, and the way he attacked offseason workouts and spring camp suggests he’s ready to get back on track and take another step forward as a rusher.

As for the offensive line, it’s still too early to make a final judgment on what that unit will look like. But the chance to get more physical, aggressive and nasty in the trenches will be embraced wholeheartedly by those Buckeyes. After publicly addressing some difficulties handling the Run-Pass Option blocking scheme a year ago, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa and a couple returners with experience like Thayer Munford and Wyatt Davis should be more comfortable with what’s being required up front. Throw in an experienced transfer like Jonah Jackson, a future star at right tackle in Nicholas Petit-Frere and a do-it-all veteran like Branden Bowen and Ohio State should be in great shape.

Everything ultimately revolves around the quarterback, though, and Justin Fields will dictate how that offense is going to really look. But in terms of an area to improve heading into training camp, for the Buckeyes that will start on the ground.

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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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