Buckeye Breakdown: Mike Weber taking on new role, big expectations in Ohio State’s backfield
As the season continues to grow closer, Ohio State’s depth chart at each position is beginning to take shape. With 16 starters from last year’s team lost to graduation or the NFL, this will be one of the program’s youngest teams in recent memory.
Join Landof10.com as we break down each of the 10 position groups and what Buckeye fans can expect out of each one this fall.
Next up are the running backs, a group that has to replace an OSU legend.
Assessing the roster
Who they lost: Ezekiel Elliott (NFL), Bri’onte Dunn (Dismissed from team)
Who they added: Antonio Williams (2016 signee), Demario McCall (2016 signee)
Who’s still there: Mike Weber (RS freshman), Curtis Samuel (junior), Dontre Wilson (senior)
Projected depth chart
- Mike Weber
- Curtis Samuel
- Antonio Williams
- Dontre Wilson
- Demario McCall
Since Urban Meyer’s first season in Columbus in 2012 — and the time Carlos Hyde emerged as the unquestioned starter at running back for Ohio State — the Buckeyes have been nothing short of a juggernaut running the football. They’ve averaged 261 yards per game on the ground since that first undefeated season for Meyer and his run-focused coaching staff.
So that’s the strength, right? The system. The read-option, the power run game. That’s what the Buckeyes do well and they’re positioned to do it again, especially with J.T. Barrett back at the helm making the decisions in the option game. There is also a lot of talent around Barrett.
|Name||Star Ranking||National Ranking|
|Mike Weber||★★★★||9 (RB)|
|Curtis Samuel||★★★★||8 (ATH)|
|Antonio Williams||★★★★||7 (RB)|
|Dontre Wilson||★★★★||6 (RB)|
|Demario McCall||★★★★||2 (RB)|
Beyond talent, there is versatility. Specifically with the re-transitioning of Curtis Samuel to the backfield, where he’s likely to be occasionally joined by senior Dontre Wilson. That pair has vacillated between the running back position and wide receiver, so with an offense that is evolving, it’s a big benefit for Barrett to have players around him that have seen meaningful minutes at both positions and special teams.
While there is plenty of talent and versatility, there are equal amounts of uncertainty and inexperience.
Weber, the presumptive starter and load-carrier for the Buckeyes, does not have a collegiate carry. Samuel and Wilson have been splitting time, not just between running back and wide receiver, but also between healthy and injured. Neither have been able to make it through a full-season without missing time.
When they have, they’ve not been counted on to be “the guy” at either position and have had very limited workloads. Samuel has been explosive when he’s carried the ball (75 career carries and 7.18 yards per rush) but, in his own words, it’s a challenge to learn two positions at once.
“Understanding the playbook … there are a lot of things that go into playing both,” he said when asked about the greatest issues with playing two spots. “Just being able to manage time properly during meetings, to know all the new things going into playing receiver and running back.”
Between the five players that are likely to play minutes at running back, there are 124 combined carries (Dontre Wilson’s career high was 31 as a freshman in 2013).
For the 2016 Buckeyes to be the Buckeyes that fans and coaches have come to expect? Someone is going to have to be the man and everyone is going to need to avoid the injury bug.
What to expect
If the past success is an indicator of future success, then you should expect more success from the running back position at Ohio State. Weber is going to get the first crack at it and although he’s yet to make it through a full training camp with the Buckeyes, he’s impressed his teammates this fall. He’s also spent a lot of time reshaping his body after arriving at Ohio State in less-than-ideal shape for strength and conditioning coach Mick Marotti.
Weber isn’t afraid of the challenges, rather, he’s embracing them. That’s the good news. To go out and be the best player he can be, the next player to lead the Buckeyes from the school’s “Cadillac position?” That’s what he says he was born to do.
“I used to think about it a lot,” he said of the pressure to fill some big shoes. “Now, I’m just ready to play football and do what I’ve been doing my whole life.”
After Weber, expect Curtis Samuel and J.T. Barrett to play big roles in the running game. In 2014 (938 yards) and 2015 (682 yards), Barrett was actually the team’s second-leading rusher though the hope is that this year he’ll be able to carry less of that burden.