CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Include Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett among those who sometimes find themselves amazed by Ezekiel Elliott.
“Zeke is something else, isn’t he?” Barrett said after Ohio State’s 28-3 win over Illinois on Saturday. “We’re definitely appreciative of Ezekiel Elliott. For sure.”
The blue print for success for Ohio State has had some adjustments and might still have a few more over the upcoming weeks.
But the one constant has been Elliott.
The junior tailback has rushed for more than 100 yards in all 10 of OSU’s games this season after doing that in the last five games last year.
His 181 yards on 27 carries Saturday pushed his season total to 1,425 yards. He is now third behind Archie Griffin and Eddie George in career rushing yards at Ohio State and his 20 games of 100 yards or more is tied with George for second behind Griffin.
“I grew up in that era with Archie and Eddie and somebody told me that on the sideline. Even to say that kind of takes your breath away,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “I know if I had my choice of any tailback in the country I’ve got mine.”
Meyer got his tailback by out-recruiting Missouri, where both of Elliott’s parents were athletes.
There were some tense moments late in the recruitment when Elliott’s father worried his son might not get the football enough in Meyer’s offense.
As it has turned out, Meyer couldn’t wait to give the ball to Elliott once he became a starter last season as a sophomore.
Elliott is averaging 22 carries a game this season. Last year he averaged 18 carries a game, capped by running the ball 36 times for 246 yards in the national championship game. He rushed for 1,878 yards last season.
Saturday, he carried five times in a row and seven times in 11 plays in one stretch.
“Most tailbacks can’t do that. That’s how conditioned and how tough he is,” Meyer said. “Usually you have to sub in tailbacks. Zeke just gets tougher and tougher. That tells you how tough he is.
“Obviously, he’s a workhorse who gets stronger as the game goes on. I want to say the majority of the games this year teams do a good job of taking him away and then he gets stronger as the game goes on,” he said.
If there is one irreplaceable player in Ohio State’s lineup, it is Elliott. Even his coach says that.
“We are certainly not in this situation without Zeke,” Meyer said. “There were some issues back and forth at quarterback earlier this year. He is the one constant.”
Elliott says his offensive line deserves much of the credit for his success.
“It’s a blessing to be compared to the former greats at Ohio State but I just want to give thanks to the offensive line. I’ve basically had the same guys since I started here. They make it easy for me week in and week out,” he said.
However the credit should be divided, Elliott is the guy Ohio State relies on to keep the football moving forward. And he likes it that way.
“That’s what every running back wants to be. That’s every running back’s dream,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.