COLUMBUS, Ohio — The 2017 season wasn’t a great one for Ohio State running back Mike Weber, all things considered.
He spent most of the season hobbled from a training camp hamstring injury, missing the first game of the season entirely. That absence led to the emergence of freshman J.K. Dobbins, who essentially displaced Weber as the starting running back and rushed for more than 1,400 yards in his first college season. Weber’s last two games weren’t particularly memorable, either. He got just four carries for 8 yards in the Big Ten title game and finished with 18 yards on five carries in the Cotton Bowl.
However, despite all that misfortune, the good of 2017 might outweigh the bad because of what it could portend for the future of both Weber and Ohio State’s offense. Over the final three games of the regular season, Weber flashed the potential to be a superstar tailback at Ohio State, erasing some frustrations in the process.
Weber’s lack of explosive plays has long been a source of exasperation for Ohio State fans. Entering the 10th game of 2017, Weber’s career long run was for 52 yards against Michigan State in 2016 — and even on that one he was caught from behind. He’d only registered a handful of runs longer than 35 yards in his career. That all changed against Michigan State in 2017. Weber rushed for 162 yards on 9 carries, including touchdown runs of 47 and 82 yards. He looked more explosive than ever. One week later he gained 108 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 43-yard burst. In the regular-season finale, he ripped out Michigan’s heart and iced the game with a 25-yard score in which he outraced four defenders to the end zone.
The next two games weren’t great, and Weber’s season ended in tears in the Cotton Bowl locker room, but the fact that he’s shown he can be a game-changing back matters — especially now that he’s fully healthy. Weber said his health played a big role in his resurgence, along with training that he did prior to the 2017 season.
“Most of it was being healthy,” he said. “The other half was me working on things in that offseason that I needed to work on as far as speed training and my wind and how long I run and stuff like that. There’s a lot of things I did that summer before I got hurt to become more explosive and faster, and it showed when I got healthy.
“If I stay healthy, everything should fall into place.”
Ohio State already has a known commodity in Dobbins, who ran roughshod over opponents throughout 2017. But the Buckeyes also now know they have an incredible weapon with Weber, too, who finally showed he can be the explosive back fans have been waiting to see.