NCAA Football News

Ohio State Football: Can Mike Weber Emerge as the Buckeyes' Featured RB?

Ohio State has fielded one of the most devastatingly productive rushing attacks in the country since 2012—the year Urban Meyer took over as head coach—and much of that success is tied directly to the Buckeyes' featured running back.

From 2012-13, that role belonged to Carlos Hyde, who rumbled his way to 2,689 total yards and 35 touchdowns.

Over the last two seasons, it was Ezekiel Elliott who led the charge, and he put together historically great numbers with 4,125 total yards and 41 touchdowns from 2014-15.

With Elliott making an early jump to the NFL, Meyer and the Buckeyes have a lot of questions in their backfield.

Mike Weber is trying to emerge as the answer.

The 5'10", 215-pound bulldozer was rated as a high 4-star prospect for the class of 2015, and he became one of the crown jewels of last year's Ohio State recruiting haul when he chose Meyer over Jim Harbaugh and the home-state Michigan Wolverines.

It didn't take Weber long to show his talent.

In fall camp last year, Weber shot up the depth chart despite being part of the program for a couple of months. He flexed his muscle in one of Ohio State's fall scrimmages, saying he ran the ball 15 times for nearly 200 yards with "a few touchdowns," according to Dave Biddle of 247Sports.

Everything was lining up for him to become Elliott's primary backup and get some playing time in his first season in Columbus.

He was the second true freshman to lose his black stripe, joining offensive tackle Isaiah Prince as an official member of the team, and he factored in as a nice change-of-pace back to the lightning-fast Elliott.

But Weber suffered a torn meniscus that required surgery before the start of the season, an injury that was expected to cost him three to four weeks, per Eleven Warriors' Eric Seger. But that, paired with Elliott's ability to carry the load, led to a redshirt and a season on the sideline for the talented running back.

That setback gave Weber the opportunity to sit back and learn from one of the most productive running backs in school history, and after Ohio State's 44-28 thrashing of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, he talked about his lost year and expectations for 2016, according to Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com:

I started off really good. I kind of caught on to the college speed of the game really quick and was basically running the ball really good. The injury slowed me down a little bit. It kind of set me back this whole year and maybe pushed me toward a redshirt.

But if I had to do it again, I'd be a redshirt because I learned from Zeke and the guys in front of me. I just sat back and watched those guys. I am just going to let it all loose next year.

Now that he's fully healthy, he's vying to become the next great running back under Meyer at Ohio State. But he's in the thick of a heated position battle with senior Bri'onte Dunn, a career backup who's not taking what is likely his last opportunity for a starting position lightly.

With spring practice winding down, neither Weber nor Dunn have surged ahead to become the clear starter, and questions about whether Ohio State should implement a two-headed running back attack have surfaced.

"Will we get to that point? I don't know," Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said, according to Seger. "I guess the question you're asking is if we'll do it by committee? I don't have that answer right now."

Alford expanded more on what each running back brings to the offense.

"Mike’s probably a little more of a slasher," Alford said, via Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone. "He slides off of things a little better than Bri’onte. Bri’onte is more of a downhill, just a plugger. They both can do the jobs that we need them to do in this offense."

If Weber proves to be more of a home run hitter, he'd be the better fit for a featured role in an offense that's replacing eight starters from last year's team.

And if recent history is any indication, Weber could be in for some huge numbers in 2016 and beyond.

 

All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412. 

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