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In His Coach's Words: 2017 Ohio State RB Commit J.K. Dobbins
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — The Buckeyes received a commitment from La Grange, Texas running back J.K. Dobbins earlier this month, and while it may not have been expected by OSU this early, it was happily accepted.

Dobbins committed to Ohio State without ever visiting campus, but that will be changing later this week when he will reportedly make his first trip to OSU.

Once on campus, the staff and his future teammates will attempt to ensure that what drew him to Ohio State will only have been fortified by what he sees and experiences while on his visit.

As you'll read, there is very good reason for the Buckeyes to make sure that this visit is a home run for Dobbins.

The Player

J.K. Dobbins is a 4-star running back out of La Grange, Texas, and he is rated as the No. 4 all-purpose back in the nation per the 247Sports Composite.

The term "all-purpose" is a tag that some running backs are sometimes saddled with because they might project to a slot receiver position or a third-down back, or there is some concern that they may not be able to be an every-down, workhorse type of tailback.

Ezekiel Elliott was once considered an "all-purpose" back by some, and that's actually a perfect way to describe him because he could do anything. That's not really the way the term is intended to be used, but Elliott has been known as somewhat of a trendsetter over the last few years, and so maybe his next trend will be taking the negative connotation off of the words "all-purpose".

One of the reasons why Dobbins is labeled as an all-purpose back is because of his 5-foot-9 frame, but the one person who has complete confidence in his ability to be a workhorse is the head coach who put him in that position prior to his junior season a year ago.

Matt Kates, the head coach and athletic director at La Grange High School, absolutely believes that Dobbins can handle the load as a college tailback.

"One hundred percent, yeah," he recently told The-Ozone. "Me being a Fort Worth guy, my favorite player of all time is Emmitt Smith and he’s Emmitt Smith’s size right now, 5-9 and around 205. He’s just a little faster than Emmitt. Emmitt was never known for his speed, but if you go back and watch those ‘90s Cowboys, they never thought about having a third-down back. It was him all the time just because he could do everything that a back has to do, and that’s what J.K. can do."

Last season was Dobbins' first as a starter at tailback, but it was his third year as a starter overall.

"In Texas you can’t play as an eighth-grader, he probably could have," Kates said. "Since he’s been in high school he’s played every snap. As a freshman he started every game at cornerback and we were state semifinalists that year. He was about 170 pounds then, a little 5-9 170-pound corner, but he could fly. Then he also started playing a lot of slot receiver for us. I think he only got about 10 carries on the year, but I think he averaged right at 20 yards a touch carrying it, even as a freshman."

It didn't take long for Kates to know that he had a player who was going to play college football at a very high level, and for one main reason.

"Speed is something that’s special, you know?" he said. "Size and those things, to me, aren’t as important when you have just the sheer speed that most people don’t have. He was a 4.3 40-yard dash as a freshman. He was a state 100-meter qualifier here in Texas as a freshman. Nine people make it to the state meet in every event at the University of Texas. Lane 1-8 his freshman year he had juniors and seniors lined up. He was the lone non-junior or senior sitting down there in lane nine and he qualified in the 100.

"So when you have that kind of raw speed, people like Darren Sproles or Desean Jackson, early on, even though he was 5-9 and 170, I knew that he was going to be big time just from what he did as a freshman on the football field."

As a sophomore, Dobbins shared carries with senior starting running back Bralon Hutchison, who ended up signing with Texas State. Despite limited carries, Dobbins still managed to rush for over 2,300 yards and 37 touchdowns. He also played every snap as a starting safety on the defensive side of the ball.

As a junior, however, Kates and La Grange turned to Dobbins to carry the load on offense.

"This last year was pretty much all him," Kates said. "We had a lot smaller senior class and he didn’t have as many parts around him, so he got the brunt of the load. I think he had 288 carries last year for 2,740 yards. Even with that high amount of carries he still averaged 9.5 a touch and scored 35 touchdowns in only 11 games. He carried the brunt of the load last year for sure."

Given what he has seen over the last three seasons, it is easy to understand why Kates is so confident in Dobbins' ability to be an every-down tailback in college.

"Like I said, he played every snap as a cornerback for us as a freshman, he played every snap on defense as a sophomore at safety, and he’s physical enough to pass protect on third downs and he catches the ball as good as any of our receivers," he said.

"He could be a D-I slot receiver too if somebody wanted to, but he’s a true running back in every sense of the word. So there’s nothing that I’ve found that he can’t do. He even plays quarterback a little bit for us and he plays it efficiently. I don’t know what his ceiling is going to be. We just maxed today and he benched 350 and he squatted right at 585.

"I had him hand-timed yesterday at a 4.30 40. That probably computes to a low 4.4 laser time. The most impressive thing is his vertical leap. He’s around a low 40” vertical leap. If you watch the NFL Combine, he’d be at the tops of the running backs right now. I don’t know what his ceiling is. He’s 17 years old. When he’s 21 he might look like that sucker that’s leaving y’all right now. He might be 225 and have every measurable that you could ever think of."

When you watch Dobbins on the field you see a player who puts all of those tools to use. He is a patient runner who is completely comfortable running in traffic. He has the vision to avoid defenders from all angles, and the speed and athleticism to leave every last one of them behind.

"A lot of times the measurables don’t translate to football, but they do for him in every way," Kates said. "A kid can have a bunch of measurables, but when you turn on the tape he’s just not a very good football player. It sure translates with him in every single way. The jump cuts, the stop and start, the power.

"His vision, either you have it or you don’t, it’s nothing coached. There’s little things that we can try to improve upon with footwork and steps, but once he gets the ball in his hands it’s a God-given thing. You either have it or you don’t. Vision in traffic and understanding where pressure is coming from, he’s got it."

While some Texas running backs get their yards from the benefits of a spread offense, Dobbins comes by his yardage very honestly.

"We’re still an I-principle, power iso counter run type of team, and between the tackles he’s as good as anybody else," Kates said. "He can get those hard yards and he can also get around the corner, and if he gets there he’s gone."

Page 2: J.K. Dobbins the person, his story and what drew him to Ohio State.

Player profiles relevant to story:
Recruit - J.K. Dobbins
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