The No. 1 player on this list is just the third Ohio State freshman to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Of course, that number is a little specious because it was his second year on campus, but let us digress.
No. 1 — Mike Weber, rSo Running Back
Mike Weber was arguably the most-consistent skill player on the Ohio State football team last year, but there were still times when he wasn’t consistent at all.
Weber had 100-yard rushing days in three of the first four games of his career, but would finish with just one more 100-yard outing in the Buckeyes’ final nine games.
Weber became the first Ohio State starting running back to have only one 20-carry game since Brandon Saine in 2009. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2016, and also earned Second-Team All-B1G accolades.
At 5-foot-10 and 214 pounds, Weber isn’t the tallest guy, but he doesn’t need to be. He has a strong base with very good balance side to side. He has the ability to take a hit and keep moving forward. He was rarely stopped in the backfield last year.
Even though he has been knocked for his lack of big hits last season, only three running backs in the Big Ten (Saquon Barkley, Justin Jackson, Ty Johnson) had more than his 11 carries of 20+ yards. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, only four of those 11 carries went beyond 30 yards. That needs to change this season.
WEBER’S CAREER RUSHING STATS
WEBER’S CAREER RECEIVING STATS
What He Does Well
Weber has great balance when getting hit from the side, but it’s when he gets hit low that caused him troubles last season. He is a very solid outlet receiver — catching 23 passes last year, though the design of those plays only led him to a 4-yard average per reception.
Weber can lower his shoulder and take on a linebacker, or shake him altogether with a shoulder fake. He gets upfield immediately when needed, but can also be patient running outside. Weber falls forward on nearly every carry, and despite a rough outing against Clemson, is generally careful with the football.
He is faster than he gets credit for, and will be even faster this coming season.
Mike Weber in 2017
When Urban Meyer says a player has improved by 100% from the year before, you might want to take notice. Especially if that player rushed for 1,000 yards as a freshman and earned numerous accolades.
Weber spent the offseason working on his ability to make big plays. A shoulder injury late in the year slowed him down, but he left plenty of big hits on the field well before his shoulder injury. The focus in the spring was on eliminating the trip-ups that saw him miss out on a number of gigantic holes. There were probably six or seven big-time runs that were eliminated by a single perfectly-timed hand on a cleat. Weber should be running through those more this year.
He is also simply a better all-around running back. That’s a natural progression. His coaches are thrilled with where he is right now as a player and a leader.
A year ago, Weber expected to rush for 2,000 yards. He had a run-in with realism as a freshman, but his goals are probably still intact. While 2,000 yards isn’t really doable with so many ground options, Weber could certainly average 125 yards per game on the ground. What the Buckeyes will want from him most, however, is fourth-quarter dominance. The increase in long runs will simply be a bonus.
What They Are Saying
“He’s growing up. I’ve said that all along, and every time there’s a little bit more of a growth process going on. He’s a real dude. He’s fun to work with. He’s a much better ‘pro’ now than he was before as far as how he is handling his business. His approach to the game, his approach to how he takes care of his body, his approach to the younger players in our room as far as trying to help them, it’s all changed. Some guys are like that immediately, and some guys it takes a little longer. It’s a maturation process. Me, I’m the type of guy that I want it right now. If I don’t get it right now I get tensed up, but he’s coming along really well. He’s lost a little weight, he’s really taken to what Mick and the guys on the training staff and the strength and development program and he’s taken to heart. He’s taking care of himself. He’s getting better.” — Tony Alford
“Mike Weber is separating himself. He’s having an exceptional spring. He’s about where he should be. This time last year ironically I was talking to him about it today, he is 100 percent (better than) the player he was last year in everything. He’s doing a very good job.” — Urban Meyer
“He has (developed as a leader). He certainly has in our room, and that’s one of the things that he and I have talked about numerous times. He has certainly done that. I don’t know if you caught it today, but when Mike’s not in and Demario or Antonio comes in, his job is to make sure that J.K. Dobbins is standing right on his hip, in his hip pocket. J.K., and I’ve told him very clearly, listen to him. You’re talking about a guy who’s done it and done it at a really high level and he’s done it at a pretty good rate of speed. Can Mike be better? Absolutely he can be better and he will get better as we move along, but J.K. can learn from him by just standing with him, the same way that Mike learned by standing next to Zeke.” — Tony Alford