clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Just 7 games into his rookie season, former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is already one of the NFL’s best

Not only is the running back leading the NFL in rushing, but he has a shot at breaking Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

“As a competitor we want to be the best at what we do. That’s what I think I’ve done a good job with kind of becoming a well-rounded player and kind of working on everything, not just focused on running the ball, catching it, or being a third-down guy out of the backfield. Just being a guy you don’t have to take out, who can do a little bit of everything.”

Former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott via Jonathan Jones, Sports Illustrated

It’s not like the rest of the football world didn’t know who Ezekiel Elliott was a year and a half ago, but the play of Elliott really caught the eye of former Dallas Cowboys star running back Emmitt Smith. So much that Smith told Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett that he should keep an eye on Elliott. 15 months later the Cowboys took Elliott with the fourth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and through seven games Elliott is more than living up to the hype.

As a rookie Elliott is leading the NFL in rushing and it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Elliott could break Eric Dickerson’s rookie record of 1,808 rushing yards that was set in 1983. It isn’t just running that Elliott can do, as he is also able to catch the football out of the backfield, and he is already a tremendous blocker in pass coverage. It also doesn’t hurt that Elliott is running behind what many think is the best offensive line in the NFL. Elliott has rushed for at least 134 yards in each of his last four games, and if he continues to excel many will be placing him right next to Smith on the list of greatest running backs in Cowboys history.

“We have to play better. I have to do a better job. We have to do a better job coaching. Play better. Execute better. That all starts with the coaching staff and the preparation, and giving our kids a chance.”

Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warinner via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch

Earlier in the season Ohio State’s offensive was rolling along, scoring at least 38 points in each of their first five games of the season. The last two have seen that number drop to 30 points against Wisconsin in overtime, followed up by just 21 points against Penn State. While some of it can be attributed to Ohio State playing on the road in those two contests, as well as facing off against some better defenses, that doesn’t explain all of the issues. There are a number of areas that players and coaches have targeted as to why the Buckeyes have struggled on offense the last two games.

A common reason as to why Ohio State hasn’t seen as much offensive success lately is because of the execution. Both Warinner and Urban Meyer acknowledged that this football team isn’t executing as well as they are possibly of doing. Also, Ohio State had so many problems against Penn State because they were struggling on first down, averaging just 2.8 yards on first down, with 18 first down plays going for a yard or fewer. The Buckeyes also need a few more wide receivers to step up to compliment Noah Brown. While the loss to Penn State hit the team hard, now both the players and coaches know all they can do is to learn from their mistakes and move on to Northwestern.

“At some point, (Prince) has to improve as a player and he has. He didn’t have a good day. We’re not giving up on anybody. It’s his first year starting, and he’s going to get better.”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer via David Jablonski, Dayton Daily News

It’s easy after a loss to start pointing fingers and blaming others for what went wrong. Ohio State isn’t doing that after losing to Penn State on Saturday night. The easiest person to blame would be Isaiah Prince, who had a rough go of it in Happy Valley. Meyer and the rest of the Ohio State coaching staff wouldn’t take the bait though, saying that while Prince had his issues against the Nittany Lions he still has improved a lot in his first year as a starter.

The coaching staff has gone over the areas where Prince struggled and where he needs to improve going forward, but a lot of what went wrong is just being chalked up to a bad game. Some of the issues on Saturday night can also be attributed to the coaching staff and the game plan. A lot of times a loss can make a team come out stronger, and with the history of Urban Meyer’s teams after a loss, it likely won’t take too long for the Buckeyes to get back to their winning ways.

The USA Today women’s college basketball coaches poll was released earlier today and Ohio State will start out the season tied with Texas, ranked sixth in the country. Last season Ohio State finished 26-8, making it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing 78-62 to Tennessee. The Buckeyes will have to try and replace seniors Ameryst Alston and Cait Craft, but should still be strong this year with star Kelsey Mitchell, as well as Shayla Cooper and Alexa Hart returning. Ohio State will tested early in the season, when they hosted third-ranked South Carolina on November 14th in Columbus.

With Mitchell returning there are high expectations for the Buckeyes, since the junior is the type of player who could lead a team deep into the tournament. Last year Mitchell averaged 26.1 points per game, and on four separate occasions scored at least 40 points in a game. The play from Mitchell last year, as well as what many expect her to do this year, earned her the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year award. The Buckeyes will need Mitchell to have a huge game on December 19th when Ohio State travels to Hartford to take on defending national champion UConn. The only other Big Ten teams included in the top 25 poll were Maryland, who was ranked fifth, along with Michigan State, who was ranked 22nd.