Ezekiel Elliott picked the right time for a breakout.
The Ohio State running back, who got off to a very slow start in 2014 with a broken wrist in training camp, put the Buckeyes on his back in the national championship game, rushing for 246 yards on 36 carries.
The 19-year-old Elliott ran all over the Oregon defense, including touchdown runs of 33, 9, 2 and 1 yard. After being overshadowed by running backs like Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, and Ameer Abdullah during the season, Elliot showed that he was best when it mattered the most.
He started with a 220-yard, two-touchdown performance against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game, and followed it up with 230 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s upset over Alabama — the first 200-yard rusher against the Crimson Tide in more than a decade.
Ezekial Elliott won over some legendary running backs. Eddie George, the best running back in Ohio State’s history, said he saw Elliott come into his own over the course of the year.
“He was solid, but I see a totally different player now, where he’s controlling games and taking over games, and that’s the sign of greatness to come,” George said. “I mean, he’s only a sophomore and the run that he’s having is going to go down in history as one of the greatest runs possibly ever at Ohio State.”
Emmit Smith, who didn’t even have his eye on Elliott going into the first round of the College Football Playoff, was also blown away by his running.
We will have a chance to see two other Very good backs tonight #ALAvsOSU both for Bama.
— Emmitt Smith (@EmmittSmith22) January 1, 2015
Ezekiel Elliott is a legit football player. Very impressive!!! — Emmitt Smith (@EmmittSmith22) January 2, 2015
His dominating performance in the National Championship Game also won over another Ohio sports legend.
That boi a BEAST!!!!!! #Zeke
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 13, 2015
Defenses may be seeing a whole lot of Ezekiel Elliott in the future as well. As a sophomore, he is set to return to the Buckeyes in 2015.