Tony Alford has a heart to heart with running back about how he can improve this year

Ohio State football preview: What to know about Buckeye running backs

The days are getting shorter, which means the 2019 college football season is getting closer. 

We are ready to start previewing the Ohio State squad with a look at the running backs. 

Why did we start there when the Buckeyes are coming off the most prolific passing season in school history?

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Rushing records are still listed first in the media guide for good reason: Running the ball will always be a part of the DNA of Ohio State football. 

Oh, and this is where you will find the team’s best Heisman Trophy candidate, too. 

Returning starters: J.K. Dobbins 

Rising: Master Teague, Demario McCall 

Others: Robert Cope, Amari McMahon, Mitch Rossi 

Newcomers: Marcus Crowley, Steele Chambers

Dobbins has already done something unprecedented at Ohio State: Run for at least 1,000 yards as a freshman and a sophomore. 

The 5-foot-10, 212-pound junior from Texas is set to be the feature back this fall and hopes to look more like the slasher who averaged 7.2 yards per carry as a freshman than the more pedestrian version of himself that gained 4.5 yards carry last season. 

After sharing carries with Mike Weber, Dobbins said he wants them all in 2019. 

That probably won’t happen, though, as coach Tony Alford will want to keep him fresh — and see what some talented youngsters can do. 

Coach Tony Alford shares perspective on the men competing to back up J.K. Dobbins this spring.

Teague is the favorite to be the No. 2 back, bringing a larger (5-11, 215) presence to the backfield but much less experience. The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native tallied 106 yards on 17 carries last season and maintained his redshirt by playing in only four games. 

Crowley is a four-star prospect from Jacksonville, Fla., who is built more like Teague than Dobbins and hopes to get into the fray this fall after enrolling in time for spring practice. 

Steele Chambers, a four-star prospect from Roswell, Ga., arrived in June and gives Alford yet another bigger back (6-2, 215) to consider if he shows the ability to not only run but block effectively. Also a standout linebacker in high school, he is an impressive all-around athlete. 

McCall, who has bounced between the running back and receiver rooms, figures to be a wild card as he is a dangerous open-field runner from North Ridgeville, Ohio, who has shown flashes in three seasons but was held back in the spring by injury. 

While “third down back” isn’t a term you hear a lot anymore with passing becoming more of an every-down thing at the higher levels of football, that might be the best role for McCall, who ran eight times for 50 yards and caught nine passes for 110 more in a specialized role last season. 

Quotable

Head coach Ryan Day on Dobbins: “He's one of the guys that has to play good. You just hit a major pressure point right there. I mean he has to play good for us, especially in the first six games of the year. And so that's been a challenge for him. Tony's challenged him, I've challenged him, Kevin Wilson's challenged him, Mickey Marotti's challenged him. I mean he's got to have a good year for us. And so I love J.K., I believe in him, and I think he's going to have a great year.” 

Kevin Wilson on Dobbins:  “I don’t know if he struggled as much as we could just do a better job of calling it up and putting him in good places and getting the blocking a little better. To me, running is a group effort, and our group was good, just not as good as it needs to be. Hopefully it will be better.

“He is having a great offseason. And I will say, last offseason coming up he had a couple minor nick-ups with a back or a hamstring where he was limited in some of his offseason training. He’s had a great offseason run.” 

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