COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The parents of true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins will get a call soon from an Ohio State coach to say their son will make his college football debut.
That’s a tradition at Ohio State, and it’s also an indication that Dobbins likely will play significant snaps in the opener against Indiana next week.
Everyone from the coaching staff to the defensive linemen is talking about the speed of the kid from La Grange, Texas, and his ability to make defenders miss. His debut is among the most anticipated of any true freshman in recent years.
Coach Urban Meyer said 1,000-yard rusher Mike Weber, recovering from a hamstring injury, went full speed for the first time in camp on Monday. He said Weber will be ready to go next week, but Dobbins is going to play.
“He’s earned that right,” Meyer said.
Meyer said Dobbins reminds him of Raekwon McMillan in terms of how former Ohio State linebacker arrived on campus already “kind of a grown man.”
“J.K. is the same,” Meyer said. “He came in here and he’s an excellent student, one of the best workers in the weight room and then on top of that, God’s gifted him great speed, elusiveness. He’s a real one. We’re happy he’s here.”
Dobbins jumped over other backups in preseason camp to secure a role as the No. 2 guy. Running backs coach Tony Alford said he won’t rule out regularly using both ball carriers, depending on how Weber is playing.
“He’s smart,” Alford said. “This is not to take anything away from anybody else, but in my 22 years this guy has picked it up faster than anybody I’ve ever been around as a true freshman. He’s picked it up, he understands the offenses, the nuances of it.
“And he plays hard. He goes so hard at everything he does, which is part of the culture of this program.”
Weber acknowledged that it’s been hard dealing with the injury and watching Dobbins get the reps in front of him.
“I’m very anxious, I’ve been anxious since I got hurt,” he said. “Coach talked to me about it and he told me to be patience because hamstrings are very important.”
Demario McCall, a backup to Weber last year, has been running at H-back behind Parris Campbell. He’ll also return punts, along with receiver K.J. Hill.
ABOUT THOSE KICKERS
Placekicker Sean Nuernberger is again competing for the starting job despite being in his fourth year in the program.
Nuernberger broke all sorts of Ohio State records in the national championship year of 2014 but hasn’t been the same since. In 2015, he split time with senior transfer Jack Willoughby and sat out with a groin injury last year as walk-on Tyler Durbin handled kicking duties.
Durbin is gone, Nuernberger is healthy and true freshman Blake Haubeil is challenging for his job.
“Right now Sean is ahead of him, but not by a very far margin,” Meyer said.
TWO-A-DAYS? GOOD RIDDANCE
Co-defensive coordinator and special-teams coordinator coach Kerry Coombs says the demise of two-a-day practices is sitting well with Ohio State players and coaches.
The NCAA instituted a rule last spring prohibiting multiple contact practices a day in preseason. That came after a study and report with recommendations on keeping players healthy. As a result, schools were allowed to extend the preseason by a week.
“It’s a completely different schedule,” Coombs noted. “It’s the NFL schedule. The routine is positive. Our kids know what to expect every day. It’s morning meetings, it’s morning practice, rest time, meetings, walk through. I think our evening walkthroughs have been phenomenal. I think they’re a difference-maker for us. I think we are getting more out of camp than when we had two-a-days.”