When Ohio State lost Sampson James via a flip to Indiana in early October, there were some pretty fair concerns about Ohio State’s running back recruiting in 2019. With James out, the possible options list was short, and filled with players like Noah Cain, for whom Ohio State interest had already passed. The Buckeyes poked around at some players they’d looked at but ultimately moved on from, but couldn’t find any answers there.
With those options exhausted, Ohio State looked elsewhere, and landed on Trinity Christian Academy back and Miami commit Marcus Crowley. Crowley, a three-star, 6-foot-1 back looks quite a bit like the kind of back Ohio State has had for the last seven years under Urban Meyer, and seems to be the perfect fit for a Ryan Day offense. Let’s take a closer look at what the newest Buckeye will bring to Columbus.
On the field
I’ll get it out of the way now, because this has become essentially a must say for scouting pieces about Ohio State running back commits. Yes, this kid looks a lot like Ezekiel Elliott did in high school. This is true of most Buckeye running backs since Elliott, because Elliott was really damn good, and it’s pretty easy to understand why Ohio State would want a similar back to one of the best runners in school history.
Obviously, that comparison isn’t perfect. Both players are uphill runners, both players excel at reading the field, being patient with blockers, and finishing through tackles to get extra yardage. Crowley doesn’t have the breakaway speed or elite athleticism of Ezekiel Elliott yet, because Elliott is a world-class athlete, and a grown man. Marcus Crowley is in high school.
However, I do think Marcus Crowley can be a really, really awesome player for Ohio State. Not as an Ezekiel Elliott clone, but as Marcus Crowley. He’s got great speed as high school running backs go, and like I said, his vision is already very good, if not elite. That comes from watching film, and practice, both of which Crowley has done plenty of, and from natural talent, which Crowley has a ton of.
He’s really starting to show that more in his senior season than ever before. He had mostly served as a backup for the first few years of his high school career, hence the lower recruiting rankings, but as the lead back at one of the best football programs in Florida, he’s been electric, and dominant in almost every game.
A lot of that comes from what I consider to be Crowley’s greatest asset: excellent core strength. Core strength is what gives a back the ability to make quick changes of pace, hard cuts, and most importantly, Crowley’s excellent core strength is what makes him so hard to tackle. He keeps his legs churning, and the added balance that comes from great core power allows him to pick up extra yards that can often be the difference between a first down and a punt.
The biggest downside I can find with Crowley’s game right now is that he’s probably not going to be a big play threat, at least not right away, for Ohio State. He’s able to break away from high school defenders, but the separation between athletes at the next level is much smaller than it is in high school. If he plays early, he could have some of the same issues that J.K. Dobbins did last year with getting caught from behind, but I think that’s fixable with time and training.
The bottom line is that Marcus Crowley is a very good back. He’s exactly what Ohio State’s offense calls for, and while he may not see the field for a couple years with some awesome players ahead of him, when he does find the field, he’ll be just as good, if not better than the expectation at running back for Ohio State.
In the class
Crowley is the 15th member of Ohio State’s 2019 class, and the second running back, along with Steele Chambers. His commitment moves Ohio State up to 12th in the country, and will likely help even more in the future when he gets a rankings bump following the season.
Crowley comes to Ohio State via Trinity Christian, as I mentioned earlier, which should sound pretty familiar to Buckeye fans. Both Shaun Wade and Tyreke Johnson came to Ohio State from Trinity, and with two more top recruits coming down the pike in 2020 in Fred Davis Jr. and Miles Brooks (both have Buckeye offers), Ohio State could be on the precipice of a new pipeline from Florida to Ohio. That’s always a good thing.
Crowley picked the Buckeyes over 14 other offers, and a final group of Miami, who he had been committed to since December, and Florida, though this was always really just an Ohio State-Miami battle. Credit to Tony Alford here for identifying Crowley’s talent, pushing for his commitment, getting him on Campus on Saturday, and landing a big pledge with just a month to go before the early signing period.