COLUMBUS, Ohio — From seemingly the moment he committed to Ohio State, Mike Weber hasn’t been able to avoid the comparisons.
It started off with Carlos Hyde, Ohio State’s starting tailback in 2012-13 whose bruising style and similar build (6-foot-0, 235 pounds) to the 5-10, 212-pound Weber made for an easy connection. Weber was christened with the nickname “Baby ‘Los” during his first fall camp in 2015, a reference to the fact that his teammates viewed him as the second coming of Hyde and the alter ego to the smooth-running Ezekiel Elliott.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer stands by those comparisons, and he said Monday that he thinks Weber more resembles Hyde than Elliott. He reinforced that view by referring to his current redshirt freshman tailback as a “thumper.”
When it comes to production, however, Elliott appears to be the ruler against which Weber’s progress is measured. The entire offseason was littered with questions about whether Weber could reach Elliott’s level as a blocker. And just last weekend, when Weber was forced out of bounds by Rutgers safety Kiy Hester during a 49-yard run in the first quarter, Meyer half-joked in his postgame press conference that Elliott would have reached the end zone on that run.
“The guy we had last year wouldn’t have got caught,” he said. “So print that. I’m going to use that tomorrow.”
Weber confirmed on Monday that Meyer is relentless when it comes to comparing him to Elliott. Even though he said he’s not always thrilled about it, the challenges from his head coach appear to be bringing out a trait in Weber that’s allowing him to carve out his own path.
“He’s a tireless worker,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “The first game he got caught on some long runs, I remember us talking about it as a team. He went to work with his position coach and did things to improve his second-level running. Next thing you know, he’s breaking off these long runs.”
Through four games, Weber has shown flashes of a player who can grow into his own and outrun the comparisons to Hyde and Elliott.
He said that with each passing game he feels more comfortable with where he’s at and learns a little bit more about what he needs to do to be successful.
“You learn how fast the holes close, how to front up the safety, when to pick your feet up at certain times of the game, when to use speed, when not to use speed, patience,” Weber said. “It’s a lot of things that you learn just by playing the game. I feel like I’ve learned a lot so far.”
Most of all, he’s learned that he can be true to himself while working to reach the level of those who came before him.
“Really I just go out there and play my hardest,” he said. “I want to be myself at the end of the day. They’re great running backs, but I have a lot of work to do.”