Former Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer says running back J.K. Dobbins is plenty capable of contributing in the passing game for the Ravens, and he projects linebacker Malik Harrison to be a versatile piece for Baltimore due to his ability to play multiple spots and rush the passer.
Dobbins played for the Buckeyes from 2017-2019, while Harrison played in Columbus, Ohio, from 2016-2019. Meyer was the head coach at Ohio State from 2012-2018, compiling an 83-9 record. Dobbins lost a total of four games during his college career, while Harrison lost six.
The 5-foot-9, 209-pound Dobbins was taken No. 55 overall in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. His 4,459 rushing yards are second in program history only to Archie Griffin (1972-1975), but he also caught 71 passes for 645 yards during for the Buckeyes. Dobbins didn’t get the chance to showcase his pass-catching abilities like Clyde Edwards-Helaire (55 catches in 2019) did at LSU, but Meyer says he has the skill set to produce in the passing game.
“The one thing was early on, because he wasn’t very big, he had a hard time stepping up and picking up linebackers, et cetera in the pass protection, but he’s gotten great at it,” Meyer said on Glenn Clark Radio May 13. “He’s so strong, so powerful and so tough. His pass protection’s great, excellent hands, very good route runner. I can’t speak for [current Ohio State head coach Ryan Day], but I was involved in certainly his first two years. I coached him. He did some things for us in the pass game, but we had so many other weapons in the pass game that we tried to share the wealth a little bit.”
Ohio State had plenty of productive receivers during Dobbins’ tenure. Parris Campbell (Indianapolis Colts) and Terry McLaurin (Washington Redskins) are entering their second seasons in the NFL. K.J. Hill, picked by the Los Angeles Chargers in the seventh round, is embarking on his professional career, as are Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack, both of whom were signed as undrafted free agents by the New York Giants.
But in Baltimore, Dobbins won’t just be sharing targets in the passing game – he’ll be sharing carries in the running game. The Ravens also return quarterback Lamar Jackson (176 carries) and running backs Mark Ingram (202), Gus Edwards (133) and Justice Hill (58), but there should be plenty of carries to go around considering how much Baltimore runs the ball.
And if his NFL career starts the way his college career did, Ravens fans will be in for quite a treat.
“Not many people know this: His senior year in high school, he commits to Ohio State before he even visits, and he breaks his ankle on the first play of his senior year and he never plays again,” Meyer said. “He misses his whole senior year. So to say that we knew that we had a star, I thought we did — but then our starting tailback [Mike Weber] got hurt going into the first game and he ran for [181 yards] in his first game as a Buckeye.”
Meyer also lauded Dobbins’ work ethic and said he’s an “A-plus guy” with a great support system in his mother, Mya, and his grandparents. So given that – and, of course, how productive Dobbins was at Ohio State — how were the Ravens able to land him with the No. 55 pick?
“The thing that J.K. just doesn’t have is that enormous size. He’s not a 225-, 230-pound back, and I think a lot of people like that,” said Meyer, now a college football analyst for Fox Sports. “It’s amazing that when I was younger growing up in the coaching profession, running backs were always thought of to be high draft picks, but for some reason, the NFL game’s changed quite a bit. They spend the money on the quarterbacks, defensive ends and corners. But everybody needs a great running back, and you’ve got one.”
Running back wasn’t an obvious need for the Ravens heading into the draft, but linebacker most certainly was. They lost Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor in free agency and had just three on the roster: L.J. Fort, Otaro Alaka and Chris Board. They also had one pending signing in Jake Ryan, which has since become official.
Baltimore got to work building up their linebacker depth by drafting LSU’s Patrick Queen in the first round and Harrison with one of their four third-round picks. Harrison piled up 205 tackles (29 for loss), nine sacks and one interception during his time at Ohio State. At 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, the hard-hitting Harrison complements the lighter, faster Queen well.
Meyer says his versatility will be very useful to the Ravens.
“He’s a hybrid. He’s big. He’s … a long-armed athlete that can grow into being a stand-up outside guy,” Meyer said. “He’s a great pass rusher as he blitzed. We played him, first of all, at outside linebacker then moved him inside. So he’s got a lot of flexibility. I know that’s one of the reasons the Ravens really liked him. I talked to one of their coaches and they really raved about his flexibility. He can play inside or outside, also in nickel or third-down situations he can get a pass rush.”
The Columbus native was a consensus three-star prospect out of high school. Meyer explained that Ohio high schools don’t have spring ball like Florida and Texas high schools do, so kids tend to play multiple sports. Though he’s a big fan of multi-sport athletes, Meyer said those who didn’t have spring ball in high school tend to be a year behind those who did once they get on campus.
That was the case for Harrison, who played basketball in addition to football at Walnut Ridge High School in Columbus. He ended up playing in 53 games and starting 28 for Ohio State.
“We saw him, we had him at camp. He was a little bit of a late developer and was a basketball player,” Meyer said. “Luke Fickell, who was our defensive coordinator at the time, kept recruiting him, and then we went and watched him play basketball and it was a no-brainer. He’s jumping out of the gym and showed toughness.”
For more from Meyer, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Ohio state Athletics