Last season, the emergence of then-freshman running back J.K. Dobbins took all the headlines of the Ohio State running game.
Dobbins, coming into the starting lineup as a true freshman because of a hamstring injury to then-redshirt sophomore and starting running back Mike Weber, came out of the gates in 2017 firing. In the opening game against Indiana, Dobbins rushed for 181 yards on 29 carries, breaking the school record for most yards by a freshman in their debut.
On the season, Dobbins broke the program record for rushing yards by a freshman, ending the year with 1,403 yards on the ground and second team All-Big Ten honors.
Weber ended his 2017 campaign with 640 rushing yards in 12 games played, often taking a back seat while Dobbins emerged as the consistent starter.
However, in the 2018 season opener against Oregon State, it was Weber who reminded everyone of his ability.
Weber ended the 77-31 victory against the Beavers with 20 carries for 186 yards and three rushing touchdowns, both career highs, as well as a reception touchdown, the first of his career.
“It feels good, because I know my expectations of myself so I know what I can do,” Weber said. “I just have to go out there and just do it for the team and actually show people what I can do, and it’s starting to show a little.”
Weber had five more carries than Dobbins, who ended the day with 74 yards on 15 rushes.
Splitting carries may sound like an issue to some, but for Weber, it’s much more of a positive than a negative.
“There’s a reason why I came back, because we knew that we was going to split carries, but splitting carries is actually good on the body for both of us,” Weber said. “We’re both gonna eat for the rest of the season, and I can’t wait for it to happen.”
Against Oregon State, Weber had three rushes of 20 yards or more, including a 49-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Though Dobbins has been seen as the running back with more speed to Weber’s power, it was the latter who broke to open space on a handful of occasions in Ohio State’s opener.
Acting head coach Ryan Day had plenty of praise for Weber’s performance, not just on Saturday, but in his offseason work.
“Really proud of the way Mike has practiced. We’ve been talking about that for a while now,” Day said. “That was really good to see him play well today.”
Weber and Dobbins sat out the majority of the fourth quarter, allowing time for freshman running backs Brian Snead and Master Teague to show their talents.
Both running backs from the 2018 recruiting class made their way to the end zone: Snead on a two-yard run and Teague on a 33-yard run.
Snead and Teague earned most of their reps when the game was out of hand, thanks in major part to Weber, who broke a career high while being a part of four of Ohio State’s 11 touchdowns on the day.
For Weber, a season removed from never being fully healthy, a season removed from being forced to live in the shadow of Dobbins’ success, he has made an immediate impact to Ohio State’s offense.
“Something just told me to come back with my brothers and get another year at it and, hopefully, stay healthy and do what I can to help the team win,” Weber said. “I’ve been counted out a lot, in the offseason, during the season last year, I just stay humble, just keep doing what I got to do to prove people wrong.”