Let’s talk about Mike Weber.
Every few weeks I’ll trot out a mailbag and see what’s going on in the collective minds of Buckeye fans. When I’m in between mailbags, however, and I receive interesting emails, I still like to go ahead and address them in a more public forum.
Today was one of those days.
This is the question that deserved a more drawn-out answer than just a simple reply.
What do you think Weber’s rushing stats will be for 2017? Thanks!!
For me, Weber’s season could go in a number of directions, and fortunately for the Buckeyes, all of them are good.
Last year as a redshirt freshman, he rushed for 1,096 yards on 182 carries, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Amazingly, it was the worst season for the Buckeyes’ starting running back since Carlos Hyde rushed for 970 yards on 185 carries in 2012.
But don’t take that as me saying that Weber had a bad season, because he clearly did not. He didn’t finish it as well as the Buckeyes needed him to, but he was also dealing with a shoulder injury late in the year.
Weber carried the ball just 16 times total against Michigan and Clemson, rushing for 50 yards combined in those two games. That’s a far cry from what he had done to that point, but it was also the kind of thing that leaves a bad taste in a player’s mouth and can fuel him over the course of the next eight months.
This is the same guy who told me that he thought he would rush for around 2,000 yards last season. Clearly, he believes he is the workhorse on the team.
On Wednesday, Weber tweeted out a friendly bet to Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and LSU running back Derrius Guice, suggesting that the guy who rushes for the fewest yards among the three of them should have to buy the other two dinner. Both Barkley and Guice responded saying that it sounded like an easy free meal for them.
Why? Well, as Weber responded, last year he finished second on the team in carries behind quarterback J.T. Barrett’s 205 attempts.
So step one would be actually getting more carries than your quarterback. It shouldn’t be an issue in 2017, however. Keep in mind that in 2015, Ezekiel Elliott’s 289 carries were over 100 more than what Barrett and Cardale Jones combined for.
The difference, it would appear, was trust. Last year, the coaches trusted J.T. Barrett more than they trusted Mike Weber. This year, however, there is no need for such caution. Weber is the established starter and both Urban Meyer and position coach Tony Alford praised him for the player he has become.
Plus, there’s just no need for your quarterback to carry the ball three more times per game than your starting running back.
If Barrett leads the Buckeyes in rushing attempts this season, then something went terribly wrong — or guys like Demario McCall, J.K. Dobbins, and Antonio Williams — simply commandeered too many of Weber’s carries.
In fact, that’s the only way I see Barrett leading the team in rushing attempts this season — which I don’t actually see happening, by the way.
I fully expect Weber to lose some carries to the other running backs because they are finally deep enough to get more guys involved, but I also expect him to have more carries than he did a year ago.
Keep in mind, Barrett will run the ball less in 2017 because he’ll be throwing it better — and they’ll be hitting more home runs. Oh, and there are still 97 carries from Curtis Samuel to replace.
The Buckeyes ran the ball 583 times last year, and only 182 of those were by Weber. There are still plenty of opportunities for him in an offense that is deeper and better through the air. Also remember that the Ohio State offense will run more tempo this season, which means more snaps for everyone.
And remember all of those times Weber was this close to breaking one? They’ve worked hard on turning those almosts into no-doubters. Give him a few more big hits and his numbers will really begin to blossom.
Weber averaged 14 carries per game last year. I think he goes up to around 17 this year, and even that might be conservative. With more home runs — and a more effective passing game to worry defenses — Weber’s average per carry will also go up.
As I compute the numbers in my head, which I then compute to my finger onto my phone and onto my calculator app, I’m seeing about 17 carries per game combined with an (again conservative) average of around 6.8 yards per carry. Spread that out over 13 games and that gives you 1,503 yards rushing in 2017.
Not a bad season. In fact, it would be the 10th-best season for a running back in school history.
If the Buckeyes can add a couple of extra games onto those 13, then you could even see Weber break into the top five seasons all-time at Ohio State. Getting beyond those 13 games is going to be difficult to do, however.
If you’ve got any similar questions about the Buckeyes in 2017 or beyond, feel free to email me or tweet me or run into me at Chipotle. If you run into me at Kroger, however, I would just like to be left alone. Shopping for groceries is my private time and it is personal. Thank you.