Land of 10/file photo
Ohio State could have two 1,000-yard rushers this season with J.K. Dobbins (left) and Mike Weber returning.

Ohio State football: Could J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber top 1,000 yards this season?

Austin Ward

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Both members of Ohio State’s talented tailback tandem have been 1,000-yard rushers. Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins each topped that milestone during their freshman seasons with the Buckeyes. Could they do it again simultaneously?

The safe bet would be against it. But what’s the fun in that?

Putting aside the fact that only one guy can carry the football at a time and ignoring all the ridiculous depth elsewhere in the backfield and at the skill positions, there are reasons to think Ohio State might be able to pull off that feat. And it hinges around the quarterback and whether the Buckeyes cut back on their reliance for production on the ground from that spot.

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Running back Antonio Williams announced Monday that he is transferring to North Carolina. (Land of 10/file photo)

Dwayne Haskins is capable of making plays with his feet when needed, and Joe Burrow and Tate Martell both clearly bring dual-threat abilities of different degrees to the offense. But it seems likely that the Buckeyes won’t be expecting the next starting quarterback to finish with 165 rushing attempts or 798 yards the way J.T. Barrett did last season — particularly with a healthy Weber and an improved Dobbins on hand. Assuming that a sizable chunk of those carries goes to Weber, it’s within the realm of possibility that he can make a run at that benchmark number after chipping in 626 yards as the team’s third-leading rusher last season.

The tough part of the equation is figuring out how Ohio State wants to manage its loaded backfield, which is deeper than just those top two guys on the depth chart. Antonio Williams appeared to be more than capable of providing a jolt off the bench before announcing that he is transferring to North Carolina. But there’s still plenty of depth, considering that early enrollee Master Teague showed up on campus looking like a future star this spring. He is one potential option to gobble up some of those rushes that went to Barrett last season. Demario McCall, Martell and H-backs Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill might eat into them as well.

Of course, both running backs would have to stay healthy in order to reach that level. There’s the old debate about whether it’s preferable to ride a hot hand or allow a running back to find a rhythm by providing a regular dose of attempts. And that quarterback situation, of course, is going to play a crucial role in any discussion about the future of the offense.

So there is a case to be made on both sides of this debate. Historically, it’s probably wise not to expect Ohio State to roll out a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. But these are two talented backs, and betting against the Buckeyes typically isn’t a good idea, either.

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