After Ohio State’s 77-10 win against Bowling Green, Buckeyes freshman running back Mike Weber made a bold statement.
Following his first-career start — in which he ran for 136 yards on 19 carries — Weber, somewhat tongue and cheek, smiled and answered a reporter’s question about both he and Curtis Samuel as a backfield duo.
“LenDale White and Reggie Bush,” he said with a huge grin. “I think we can be a really good 1-2 punch.”
Crazy things get said after a 67-point win, and Weber wasn’t necessarily implying he and Samuel were at the level of what is arguably the best running back duo in college football history. The Detroit native simply gave an example of a combination he’d like to one day be with his backfield mate.
And through the first three games of the 2016 season, Weber and Samuel have been one of the best running back duos in all of college football. The combination has rushed for 611 yards (203.7 per game) and three touchdowns as Ohio State has started the season 3-0.
|Players (Team)||RUSHING YARDS||YPG|
|I. Smith, G. Payne (Southern Miss.)||679||226.3|
|M. Walton, J. Yearby (Miami)||657||219.0|
|J. Bogan, J. Franklin (Western Mich.)||630||210.0|
|C. Samuel, Mike Weber (Ohio State)||611||203.7|
|K. Johnson, K. Pettaway (Auburn)||553||184.3|
Weber, a redshirt freshman, ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten with 351 rushing yards this season while his 117 yards per game average ranks second in the conference. Weber has only found the end zone once — in the Buckeyes’ win over Tulsa — but he’s been a steady inside running force who has shown the ability to get outside when he needs to.
“I’m getting real comfortable with the game now,” Weber said after Ohio State’s 45-24 win over Oklahoma. “I’m just going to continue to keep working hard, get better every day and hopefully it’ll work out for me.”
Samuel has been one of the most electrifying players in all of college football throughout the first three weeks as head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Ed Warinner have lined him up all over the field in an attempt to exploit mismatches.
A faster, more shifty runner, Samuel provides the perfect complement to Weber’s bruising style and he flashed a little bit of that speed on his 36-yard touchdown run during Saturday’s win over the Sooners. Through the first three games, Samuel ranks second in the Big Ten with 260 rushing yards and he also has 259 receiving yards with two additional touchdowns through the air to illustrate his versatility.
Samuel and Weber’s 611 combined rushing yards and their per-game average of 203.7 yards currently ranks No. 4 in college football among running back duos. Southern Mississippi’s Ito Smith and George Payne rank first (679 rushing yards, 226.3 ypg.); Miami’s Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby are second (657 rushing yards, 219 ypg.); Western Michigan’s Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin rank third (630 rushing yards, 210 ypg.); and Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettaway round out the Top 5 (553 rushing yards, 184.3 ypg.).
Samuel and Weber are not White and Bush yet — not even close. But the two are certainly working in a way that’s making it quite difficult for opposing defenses.
There is no nickname yet for this combination, and maybe there won’t be. What’s for certain, however, is Ohio State will continue to rely heavily on its dominant rushing duo.
“I feel like it takes a toll on defenses,” Weber said. “We have two different running styles and we have speed and I think it will work out pretty well.”
Added Samuel: "Mike is a great player and he’s had a bunch of explosive plays. When I see Mike do a great job, that makes me want to go out there and keep doing the same thing and keep the offense going."