There are many schools of thought in college football. Almost as many schools as actually play the sport, in fact.

When it comes to running backs, some people believe it’s best to have one guy you can rely on. Others, however, think a committee works best because no one back has to handle the entire load and players stay fresh.

Ohio State has reached its biggest heights over the last decade with a “bell cow” back leading the charge. They did it with Ezekiel Elliott while winning a national title in 2014. Elliott carried the ball 273 times while the second-most carries among the running backs belonged to Curtis Samuel with 58.

In 2019, it was JK Dobbins setting a school-record with 2,003 yards rushing. He carried the ball 301 times. Master Teague was Dobbins’ backup and had 135 carries that year, with 115 coming in the second half of Ohio State’s many blowouts.

Even last year with two backs splitting time for the Buckeyes, it was a pair of workhorse performances in the postseason by Trey Sermon that helped carry Ohio State to the College Football Playoff title game. Teague had his moments last year as well, including 110 yards rushing at Penn State and 169 yards rushing against Indiana. In the two biggest regular season games of the year, Teague had 49 total carries.

Maybe the key isn’t having one back who can handle the majority of the carries, but rather having at least one back who can carry the load any particular week.

The Buckeyes have six scholarship running backs on the roster this year and while not all six are going to play, it’s hard to imagine just one of them getting the bulk of the carries and the rest just watching from the sideline.

So what is OSU running backs coach Tony Alford going to do about it this year? The same thing he’s always done.

“You know, I say this all the time, and I said it last year, I said it two years ago, I said it three years ago, I said it my entire career, and I say it again that we’re gonna do whatever we need to do to win games,” Alford said this spring. “And some people might say that using the two-back system hasn’t worked, but at the end of the day we’re here to win games.”

Some of those people criticizing the two-back system can go back to the 2018 season with Dobbins and Mike Weber when Dobbins rushed for 1,053 yards and Weber went for 954. Together they were a formidable duo, but both players were under their career averages in terms of yards per carry and neither were as consistent as they had been earlier in their respective careers.

That 2018 season featured a 49-20 loss at Purdue but ended with a Rose Bowl win over Washington. Were Dobbins and Weber to blame for the 49 points allowed to a Boilermaker team that scored 13 points the next week at a 4-3 Michigan State team? Of course not.

And maybe a second experienced running back would have been enough to carry the Buckeyes over Clemson when Dobbins suffered his ankle injury during their playoff matchup in 2019.

“You say it hasn’t worked, well we’ve won a lot of games around here,” Alford said. “We haven’t won the big one like we want to in the past two years. Now is that attributed to because we only played two backs or one back, that’s debatable. But we’re going to do whatever we need to do to win games and if it’s one guy as the ‘bell cow’ as we like to say, then it shall be. If it’s not, then it’s not.”

If the Ohio State running back room was produce, Whole Foods could put a hell of an upcharge on it because this process is going to be very organic in nature.

Minus all the ‘BS,’ of course.

“I think right now the biggest thing for us is to continue to grow as a football team, continue to grow as a unit, and obviously continue to grow individually with those players and be the best version of themselves and be the best players they can be,” Alford said.

“And if that means that they emerge and kind of separate themselves from the pack, then that shall happen. And in some regards, that may happen. But time will tell. Right now we’re just trying to get better every day and go from there.”

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  1. There are many schools of thought in college football. Almost as many schools as actually play the sport, in fact.

    When it comes to running backs, some people believe it’s best to have one guy you can rely on. Others, however, think a committee works best because no one back has to handle the entire load and players stay fresh.

    Ohio State has reached its biggest heights over the last decade with a “bell cow” back leading the charge. They did it with Ezekiel Elliott while winning a national title in 2014. Elliott carried the ball 273 times while the second-most carries among the running backs belonged to Curtis Samuel with 58.

    In 2019, it was JK Dobbins setting a school-record with 2,003 yards rushing. He carried the ball 301 times. Master Teague was Dobbins’ backup and had 135 carries that year, with 115 coming in the second half of Ohio State’s many blowouts.

    Even last year with two backs splitting time for the Buckeyes, it was a pair of workhorse performances in the postseason by Trey Sermon that helped carry Ohio State to the College Football Playoff title game. Teague had his moments last year as well, including 110 yards rushing at Penn State and 169 yards rushing against Indiana. In the two biggest regular season games of the year, Teague had 49 total carries.

    Maybe the key isn’t having one back who can handle the majority of the carries, but rather having at least one back who can carry the load any particular week.

    [URL=’https://buckeyescoop.com/spring-gleaning-buckeyes-running-backs-deep/’]The Buckeyes have six scholarship running backs on the roster this year[/URL] and while not all six are going to play, it’s hard to imagine just one of them getting the bulk of the carries and the rest just watching from the sideline.

    So what is OSU running backs coach Tony Alford going to do about it this year? The same thing he’s always done.

    “You know, I say this all the time, and I said it last year, I said it two years ago, I said it three years ago, I said it my entire career, and I say it again that we’re gonna do whatever we need to do to win games,” Alford said this spring. “And some people might say that using the two-back system hasn’t worked, but at the end of the day we’re here to win games.”

    Some of those people criticizing the two-back system can go back to the 2018 season with Dobbins and Mike Weber when Dobbins rushed for 1,053 yards and Weber went for 954. Together they were a formidable duo, but both players were under their career averages in terms of yards per carry and neither were as consistent as they had been earlier in their respective careers.

    That 2018 season featured a 49-20 loss at Purdue but ended with a Rose Bowl win over Washington. Were Dobbins and Weber to blame for the 49 points allowed to a Boilermaker team that scored 13 points the next week at a 4-3 Michigan State team? Of course not.

    And maybe a second experienced running back would have been enough to carry the Buckeyes over Clemson when Dobbins suffered his ankle injury during their playoff matchup in 2019.

    “You say it hasn’t worked, well we’ve won a lot of games around here,” Alford said. “We haven’t won the big one like we want to in the past two years. Now is that attributed to because we only played two backs or one back, that’s debatable. But we’re going to do whatever we need to do to win games and if it’s one guy as the ‘bell cow’ as we like to say, then it shall be. If it’s not, then it’s not.”

    If the Ohio State running back room was produce, Whole Foods could put a hell of an upcharge on it because this process is going to be very organic in nature.

    Minus all the ‘[I]BS[/I],’ of course.

    “I think right now the biggest thing for us is to continue to grow as a football team, continue to grow as a unit, and obviously continue to grow individually with those players and be the best version of themselves and be the best players they can be,” Alford said.

    “And if that means that they emerge and kind of separate themselves from the pack, then that shall happen. And in some regards, that may happen. But time will tell. Right now we’re just trying to get better every day and go from there.”

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