Mike Weber had one of the most productive seasons by a freshman running back in Ohio State history last year.
That hasn’t been forgotten by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.
Weber has been overshadowed through the first three games of this season by new Ohio State freshman running back J.K. Dobbins, who appears well on his way to eclipsing Weber’s first-year accomplishments. Dobbins has started each of Ohio State’s first three games and already rushed for 425 yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries. Weber, on the other hand, has only seven carries for 42 yards in Ohio State’s last two games after missing the season opener with a hamstring injury.
It would seem that Dobbins, who ranks eighth among all Football Bowl Subdivision players in rushing yards, has run away with the starting running back job. He’s already just the third freshman in Ohio State history, joining Archie Griffin (1972) and Maurice Clarett (2002), to rush for at least 170 yards in two games. Meyer acknowledged Monday that Dobbins is the type of player who will make defenses change the way they play the Buckeyes.
"Last year, I remember even on the field people would point out where Curtis Samuel is. The defense would come out and say … you have you to keep that guy in front of you," Meyer said. "J.K.’s not there yet. But J.K., everybody is starting to see what he can do."
Weber made a name for himself last year as a redshirt freshman, when he rushed for 1,096 yards – the third-most all-time by an Ohio State freshman running back, behind Clarett and Robert Smith (1991) – and nine touchdowns. Yet Dobbins’ spectacular start, coupled with Weber playing only 44 total snaps in his first two games this season, leaves reason to question how much of a role Weber will have going forward in Ohio State’s offense.
Meyer insists that Weber will still play an important role for the Buckeyes this season.
"It's not that Mike is a lost soul around here," Meyer said. "He's very critical for us as we continue to move forward in conference play coming up in a few weeks."
Meyer says Weber is still not back to full strength as he recovers from his hamstring injury, which is why his snaps were limited in the last two games.
Although Dobbins is emerging as a player who will tough to keep off the field – and it would be a surprise if Dobbins isn't the first running back on the field from this point forward – Meyer says Weber earned his place within the offense with his work this offseason, and will see increased playing time once he is healthy.
"This spring and this summer, he was one of our hardest working guys on the team," Meyer said. "His commitment to our program is incredible right now. So he'll be rewarded once he gets back full speed."
“He's very critical for us as we continue to move forward in conference play coming up in a few weeks.”– Urban Meyer on Mike Weber
Dobbins and Weber have been listed as co-starting running backs on the Buckeyes’ depth chart and are the only running backs who have seen playing time with the first-team offense in the last two games. Antonio Williams played 10 snaps on Saturday against Army, but all came alongside other Ohio State backups on the game’s final offensive possession. Demario McCall has not played in either of the last two games while battling an injury of his own.