Ohio State’s 2018 roster is loaded with talent, per usual, but how does it compare to the Buckeyes’ previous teams since Urban Meyer has arrived in Columbus?
Here at Eleven Warriors, we’re taking a position-by-position look at how the Buckeyes’ current roster stacks up with Ohio State’s rosters from Meyer’s first six seasons as head coach.
After starting with a look at how this year’s quarterback roster stacks up with the Buckeyes of 2012 through 2017, we now move ahead to the running backs, where Ohio State returns a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber.
With Weber and Dobbins leading the way, Ohio State’s running back room is unquestionably one of the best in the country. By themselves, Dobbins and Weber are each among college football’s best running backs – and the Buckeyes also have multiple young backs with the potential to become stars on the depth chart behind them.
Of course, Weber and Dobbins aren’t the first star running backs that Meyer has had at Ohio State, where his stables at the position have also included Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliott, among others.
Therefore, it’s worth taking a look back at all the running backs Meyer has had in Columbus to see how this year’s group stacks in terms of talent, depth and experience.
Each player is listed with their year of eligibility, number of recruiting stars (based on 247Sports’ composite rankings) and how many games they had appeared in and started going into each respective season, while analysis on how this year’s crop of running backs compares to the past groups follows at the bottom.
Note: H-backs who played both running back and wide receiver at Ohio State were only listed below for the seasons in which they were listed as running backs on the Buckeyes’ roster. Players who made midseason position switches are listed if they began the season at running back.
Jordan Hall, Senior (★★★) – 29 games, 3 starts
Carlos Hyde, Junior (★★★★) – 20 games, 3 starts
Rod Smith, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 10 games
Warren Ball, Freshman (★★★★)
Bri’onte Dunn, Freshman (★★★★)
Darryl Wood, Redshirt Sophomore (Walk-on)
Zach Boren (Fullback), Senior (★★★) – 39 games, 27 starts
Adam Homan (Fullback), Senior (★★★) – 34 games
Craig Cataline (Fullback), Redshirt Sophomore (Walk-on)
Carlos Hyde, Senior (★★★★) – 30 games, 11 starts
Jordan Hall, Redshirt Senior (★★★) – 32 games, 6 starts
Rod Smith, Redshirt Junior (★★★★) – 22 games
Bri’onte Dunn, Sophomore (★★★★) – 11 games
Warren Ball, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Ezekiel Elliott, Freshman (★★★★)
Dontre Wilson, Freshman (★★★★)
Devonte Butler, Freshman (Walk-on)
Rod Smith, Redshirt Senior (★★★★) – 32 games
Ezekiel Elliott, Sophomore (★★★★) – 11 games
Bri’onte Dunn, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 11 games
Warren Ball, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 11 games
Curtis Samuel, Freshman (★★★★)
Devonte Butler, Sophomore (Walk-on) – 1 game
Jeffie Johnson, Junior (Walk-on)
Caleb Laps, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Ezekiel Elliott, Junior (★★★★) – 26 games, 14 starts
Warren Ball, Redshirt Junior (★★★★) – 21 games
Bri’onte Dunn, Redshirt Junior (★★★★) – 19 games
Curtis Samuel, Sophomore (★★★★) – 14 games, 1 start
Mike Weber, Freshman (★★★★)
Jeffie Johnson, Senior (Walk-on) – 1 game
Patrick Wise, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Alex Backenstoe, Redshirt Freshman (Walk-on)
Ke’von Huguely, Freshman (Walk-on)
Mike Weber, Redshirt Freshman (★★★★)
Demario McCall, Freshman (★★★★)
Antonio Williams, Freshman (★★★★)
Alex Backenstoe, Redshirt Sophomore (Walk-on)
Ke’von Huguely, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Jordan Leasure, Freshman (Walk-on)
Mike Weber, Redshirt Sophomore (★★★★) – 13 games, 11 starts
Demario McCall, Sophomore (★★★★) – 6 games
Antonio Williams, Sophomore (★★★★) – 1 game
J.K. Dobbins, Freshman (★★★★)
Jeremiah Knight, Freshman (Walk-on)
Jordan Leasure, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Mitch Rossi, Freshman (Walk-on)
J.K. Dobbins, Sophomore (★★★★) – 14 games, 14 starts
Mike Weber, Redshirt Junior (★★★★) – 25 games, 11 starts
Jaelen Gill, Freshman (★★★★)
Brian Snead, Freshman (★★★★)
Master Teague, Freshman (★★★★)
Amari McMahon, Junior (Walk-on)
Mitch Rossi, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Jeremiah Knight, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Madu Enoli, Sophomore (Walk-on)
Daniel Bangura, Freshman (Walk-on)
Robert Cope, Freshman (Walk-on)
Michael Johnson, Freshman (Walk-on)
Overview: Recruiting and developing great running backs is certainly nothing new for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes’ tradition of excellence at the position predates Meyer’s arrival by decades, but it’s still noteworthy how consistently Meyer has recruited talent and found production at the position.
Every single scholarship running back to come to Ohio State since Meyer’s arrival has been a four-star recruit, and with the exception of 2016 – when Ezekiel Elliott left early for the NFL, Curtis Samuel was moved to H-back, Warren Ball transferred to Akron and Bri’onte Dunn was dismissed from the team – the Buckeyes have had at least four four-star running backs on their roster in every season of Meyer’s tenure.
Which running back roster has been Meyer’s most talented? The most loaded would probably be 2013, when the Buckeyes had three running backs who are now in the NFL – Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and Elliott – and seven total scholarship players at the position.
None of Meyer’s previous running back stables at Ohio State, however, have ever entered a season with more hype than this one. That’s because while Meyer’s Buckeyes have had other running back rosters that were similarly talented, they have never entered a season with two running backs who have already proven themselves as starters like Weber, who ran for 1,096 yards in 2016 before an injury-plagued season last year, and Dobbins, who ran for 1,403 yards in 2017.
Weber and Dobbins could be the most one-two running back punch in all of college football, and they aren’t the only Buckeyes to watch at the position this year.
The Buckeyes don’t have as much experienced depth at running back as they have had in some past seasons – in part because of Antonio Williams’ transfer to North Carolina and Demario McCall’s move to H-back – but they have no shortage of talent. Master Teague, Brian Snead and Jaelen Gill probably won’t see much playing time this season with Dobbins and Weber in front of them, but all of them offer the potential to make immediate impacts as true freshmen if they are called upon.