Ohio State Practicing Two-Back Sets With J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber During Spring Ball

By James Grega on April 9, 2018 at 2:54 pm
J.K. Dobbins, Mike Weber

Ohio State has consistently produced top-tier running backs over the course of multiple decades in Columbus, and that has remained the case during the Urban Meyer era. 

Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott set the standard for what the running back position could and would be at Ohio State in Meyer's speed offense, and now, the Buckeyes have two running backs that are capable of producing at an elite level. 

Mike Weber's decision to come back for his redshirt junior season means Ohio State has a backfield that features two 1,000-yard backs in him and J.K. Dobbins, leaving many to wonder how the Buckeyes will split carries between the two in 2018. 

Splitting up the carries doesn't seem to concern running backs coach Tony Alford, but one solution could be simply getting the players on the field at the same time, something that did not happen often in 2017. In fact, Dobbins said Monday that a two-back package for him and Weber was not installed until bowl practice of last season. 

"We put it in last year during the bowl game and ran a bit of that last year," Dobbins said. "It brings explosiveness. I feel like defenses won't know what to do against it."

Ohio State used the two-back package just once against USC in the Cotton Bowl, and it resulted in a 21-yard gain, albeit from H-back Parris Campbell on an end-around reverse. 

Parris Campbell reverse

With a quarterback battle between Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell continuing through spring practice, it would be natural to think that should a pocket-passer like Haskins win the job, a two-back set would be more likely. However, Weber said Monday he believes Ohio State will utilize a two-back package regardless of who is taking the snaps under center for the Buckeyes in 2018. 

"I think we will do the two-back thing regardless of who the quarterback is," Weber said. "We started doing it towards the end of last year but we didn't really get into it because of how the game went. I feel like we will get into it a lot this year."

Installing the package for both Weber and Dobbins is one thing, but adding different plays and looks out of it is another. Weber said that the plays Ohio State is running out of the personnel grouping won't feature anything drastically different from what the Buckeyes ran last year offensively. 

"We have a lot of zone-read plays and RPOs (run-pass options). That is just how our offense is ran, but I believe Coach Meyer did a good job of putting plays in last season that was strictly run plays," Weber said. "We should see that a lot and I feel like we are going to feed off of that more."

With a stable of talented running backs that also features Antonio Williams and freshman Master Teague III, Weber and Dobbins aren't expected to play much in the Spring Game, as Meyer has a tendency to rest his veterans in the team exhibition. 

That could be why Ohio State has not worked on the two-back set as much in recent weeks as they did at the beginning of spring ball, when Weber and Dobbins were fresh after three months off.

"We have been working on it a lot, especially early in the spring," Weber said of the two-back personnel group. "We added a lot of different plays to it. They have been working really good for us, and hopefully we get back to it.

"Pound the ball with the running backs or throw it deep. We have talented players to accomplish anything we want to accomplish. I feel like all we have to do is execute."

Ohio State wouldn't be the first team in recent years to utilize an explosive double-barrel running back attack. Last season, Georgia advanced all the way to the national title game with both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel rushing for more than 1,000 yards. 

Alford said Monday that Ohio State has studied other programs in the past to get ideas of how to improve certain areas of its offense, but didn't say specifically if the Buckeyes have studied one particular team this offseason when it came to the running back situation.

"We're going to do what we do," Alford said. "In the offseason you do some studies and study people who are doing things you might want to look into, but that's not just Georgia, that's anything when you evaluate what you're doing.

"We've done some things throughout the spring and we have certainly got that (two-back set) in the arsenal."

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