Ohio State’s 2019 running back recruiting was a bit of a roller coaster. The staff was in on a number of high-level players before narrowing their search for the next great Buckeye back. A de-commitment from one-time verbal pledge Sampson James, opened up the door for the OSU coaches to go after Florida’s Marcus Crowley.
Once committed to Miami (FL), Crowley was a prospect Ohio State certainly was interested in from the start, but backed off a bit when James committed to the hurricanes. However, in recruiting things can change quickly. After taking his official visit to Ohio State this past November, Crowley apparently immediately knew that he wanted to become a Buckeye as the very next day he decided to switch his pledge from the ‘Canes to the Bucks.
The coaching staff shouldn’t be the only ones excited about landing this star. Regardless of his star ranking, Marcus is a dynamic running back with accolades that certainly show just how impressive he really is on the field. 247 Sports Composite Rankings list Crowley as the 54th best player from the Sunshine State this season, and the 26th best running back nationally. Despite what appear to be pedestrian rankings — at least by Ohio State’s standards — Crowley earned the honor of being Florida’s Gatorade Player of the Year for 2018, so clearly there’s more to his play than just those numbers.
[Scouting Report] 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. - Patrick Mayhorn
“Crowley has tremendous hands, one of the best 7v7 RBs in the state” - Bud Elliott, SBNation