Mike Weber Endured Rapid Maturation Process to Prepare for Starting Running Back Job at Ohio State

By Eric Seger on July 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm
Inside Mike Weber's maturation process to become Ohio State's lead running back ahead of 2016.

CHICAGO — Urban Meyer wasn't shy about it. With such a young, wide-eyed Ohio State squad staring at him in the face as he readies for fall camp he did not hold back when asked how far redshirt freshman running back needed to mature in order to even have a prayer at replicating what Ezekiel Elliott did the last two years at running back for the Buckeyes.

"A lot and a lot," Meyer said Tuesday at Big Ten Media Days. "I saw his little post, his before picture and after picture. A little fat kid that turned into a good looking running back.

"You can tell him I said that too."

You can bet Weber already knows. With the dismissal of fifth-year senior Bri'onte Dunn for a violation of team rules, the spotlight now shines solely on Weber to start in place of the 2015 Silver Football winner. He needed to mature in order to earn his spot.

“At Florida, H-back kind of become the Cadillac position. We didn't have the Carlos Hyde and the Zeke Elliott. I'm not counting out Mike Weber, now. That's a talented cat.”– Urban Meyer

As much as Meyer wants to say Curtis Samuel and Dontre Wilson will help in the running game this fall (they will), the bulk of the backfield action will include Weber and J.T. Barrett. The latter is, to use Meyer's term, "exceptional" at running the read option — a piece critical to Ohio State's offensive plan.

Barrett will do it this fall with Weber, however, instead of the guy in line to start for the Dallas Cowboys.

"He's an explosive back that we have," Barrett said. "He cares a lot about his teammates I feel like. We'll just keep on pushing him every day."

A highly ranked recruit from Cass Tech High School in Detroit, Weber left his home state to play for Ohio State. He became a central part in a story that blew up after signing day 2015 when Stan Drayton left Ohio State for the Chicago Bears.

Weber admitted it hurt to have his future position coach leave so quickly, but dealt with it and grew close to Tony Alford. A torn meniscus knocked him out of fall camp last year, but even if he was healthy Elliott was the man at running back. That wasn't going to change but is not easy to accept for any top recruit.

"I think with any athlete, you see someone like a Zeke in front of you, you see someone like a Joey Bosa, the human nature is not to quite go as hard," Meyer said. "Understand no matter what you do, you're not going to beat that guy out.

"I've seen that with Jalyn Holmes. I'm seeing that with Dre'mont Jones, Mike Weber, Parris Campbell, Curtis Samuel, those are all guys that should have played more than they did last year. But there was that one guy in front of them. Chris Worley, at that point, was not going to beat out Darron Lee. But I see a whole renewed enthusiasm because he's going to be playing for us."

Weber finds himself in that group too and Meyer believes he is ready to take the step. He already did this spring and summer, shaving nearly 10 pounds from his frame in Mickey Marotti's dojo.

Credit goes to not only Marotti and Alford for committing to getting his body in shape, but also Alford, Meyer and Weber himself.

"With a guy like Mike, such a critical guy and I'm very close with him. That's the Cadillac position in sports, one of them, to be the starting tailback," Meyer said. "My name is going to be on that one so I just want to make sure it's good. I do spend a lot of time with that, but Tony Alford's done a really good job with him."

On a team short of experienced leaders the two captains on the offensive side of the ball know what they need from Weber this fall too.

"Pat Elflein and J.T. have kind of owned him and he's become part of that little group," Meyer said. "You have no choice with those two guys but to grow up."

So while H-backs like Samuel and Wilson should see more opportunities to carry the ball in 2016, Meyer's Ohio State teams rode the powerful legs of running backs like Carlos Hyde and Elliott.

He believes Weber matured and is next up.

"At Florida, H-back kind of become the Cadillac position," Meyer said. "We didn't have the Carlos Hyde and the Zeke Elliott. I'm not counting out Mike Weber, now. That's a talented cat."

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