Ohio State has a handful of unknowns surrounding its 2016 season, one of which is the running back position. The Buckeyes are in the process of trying to figure out who will replace Ezekiel Elliott, who left after his junior season for the NFL Draft.
This, of course, won’t be an easy task. Elliott is second on Ohio State’s career rushing list with 3,961 yards trailing only Archie Griffin (5,589 yards) in school history. You can’t simply replace a guy like that.
But the Buckeyes have to figure out a way to make it work. Somebody has to take handoffs this season from quarterback J.T. Barrett.
And as Ohio State opened spring practice Tuesday morning, running back was one of the many things head coach Urban Meyer was asked about.
“Well, Bri’onte [Dunn] is a senior, so I’d like to see him take that first swing,” Meyer said. “But I think the guy behind him is pretty good, too. I guess you’d hope it would be Bri’onte Dunn to take the first snap of the first game of the season, but I think the kid behind him is pretty good, too.”
The player behind Dunn that Meyer was referring to, of course, was Mike Weber, the talented ball carrier Ohio State hauled from Detroit in its 2015 class. Weber redshirted last year as a true freshman sitting behind Elliott, but he’s certainly going to push Dunn for that starting spot. The former four-star recruit was the ninth-ranked running back in the 2015 class and the No. 78 overall player.
But Meyer also offered up some more intriguing options in addition to Dunn and Weber. He said both Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson could see some snaps at running back, as well. Samuel is limited in spring practice due to a foot injury, but during the open part of the Buckeyes’ practice Tuesday, Wilson moved around quite a bit between the wide receivers and running backs and was taking some handoffs and pitches while working at running back.
Meyer said Wilson is up to 198 pounds now, “which is much heavier than the 170 when he first got here,” and he seems to be fully recovered from foot injuries that have held him back the last two seasons.
There is obviously still a long way to go until Ohio State plays its first game, but as things stand right now it doesn’t appear there is going to be one singular running back who logs the majority of the carries like Elliott has the last two seasons.
Meyer seems just fine with that.
“As I see it right now, you’ve got four guys carrying the ball for us in the fall,” Meyer said. “The two running backs and then Dontre and Curtis.”