One year after leading the Buckeyes in rushing with 1,403 yards as a true freshman in 2017, JK Dobbins responded as a sophomore with just 1,053 yards on the ground. His average dropped from 7.23 yards per carry as a freshman to just 4.58 as a sophomore.
There have been several reasons put forth as to why the drop in numbers for Dobbins, such as the Buckeyes having a much different offensive line than the year before, moving to a more pass-heavy offense, and quarterback Dwayne Haskins not being the threat to run the ball that JT Barrett was for the four previous seasons.
To hear JK Dobbins tell it at the time, however, it was also because he was too often looking to hit the home run. Now that he was splitting reps with fellow tailback Mike Weber, he was trying to make the most of his opportunities. It was a noble desire, but he was trying to force something to happen that simply cannot be forced to happen.
A year later, without having to share the load as a junior, Dobbins rushed for a school-record 2,003 yards.
Fast-forward three years and TreVeyon Henderson enters his sophomore season after leading the Buckeyes in rushing with 1,255 yards as a true freshman. He will be sharing the workload this year with redshirt sophomore Miyan Williams, who opened the 2021 season as the Buckeyes’ starting running back.
Recent history and current present have people wondering if Henderson might suffer the same sophomore fate as Dobbins. Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford hasn’t seen any reason to worry about it to this point, however.
“Well, we talked about it,” Alford said back in May. “We’ve talked about it, but they’re two different types of kids. Trey is much more reserved than JK. JK was much more flamboyant and kind of ‘out there.’ Whereas Trey’s not. So is it talked about? Yeah, but they’re different mentalities as far as how they go about their business, right? In the public eye, they’re very different. Not saying one’s worse or better, nothing like that. They’re just different. And so with that being said, some of the conversations are different of how we’re handling that. To this point, I haven’t seen any issues with Trey that are alarming to me. If I did, he knows I would certainly speak on those.”
Both running backs take their football very seriously, but Henderson may have some advantages over Dobbins as second-year players. For one, Henderson will be playing in the same offense he played in last year. There will be some tweaks with the offensive line, but it isn’t expected to be anything he can’t handle.
There is also a stark contrast to the kind of change that Dobbins had to go through by lining up next to JT Barrett one year and then Dwayne Haskins the next. Henderson will have the same quarterback lined up next to him as he did last year, which should only make everyone even more comfortable than they were as first-time starters in 2021.
Sharing the workload also isn’t new to Henderson. Last year, some combination of Miyan Williams and Master Teague would often combine for 10 carries between them. Sharing carries is actually something that Henderson came to Ohio State to do. He and fellow tailback Evan Pryor were part of the same recruiting class, after all.
Henderson is completely bought in on splitting some portion of carries, but don’t take that to mean he doesn’t want as many as they’ll give him.
“Yeah, he is. He is. I know he is. He’s bought into that,” Alford said of splitting reps. “He’s bought into whatever we need to do. And you know, JK came around to that too, but again, it wasn’t that, ‘well, I’m splitting carries.’ He’s just competitive. It’s not that he didn’t want someone else to get carries. It wasn’t that. He’s confident in his own abilities and he’s just a competitive guy by nature, and I’m good with that. Everyone thought that that was a problem. That’s a problem? To me, that’s not a problem. I would rather that than, ‘Oh yeah, please do take my reps. Please do pull me out.’
“And guess what, Trey doesn’t wanna come off the field. He wants to play. In the spring game he played seven reps and he was pissed. Like ‘Coach?’ And I remember I took my whistle off and handed it to him and said, ‘Well, you can coach then, but here’s what we’re gonna go do.’ And he kind of laughed, but don’t mistake that as being like, ‘I don’t want the ball,’ or ‘I don’t want to play.’ He just understands what we’re doing.”