With as much turnover as Ohio State football is used to having, it is always good to have someone returning who you know will produce. It is even better when you have two or three guys sitting right behind the starter who look like they could contribute immediately.
I don’t think there is any question on whether the Buckeyes will have a productive backfield. You have an unquestioned starter in Mike Weber, a highlight-waiting-to-happen in Demario McCall, an extremely-talented true freshman in J.K. Dobbins, and a highly-ranked former four-star who is seemingly forgotten about in Antonio Williams.
The question really becomes how in the heck will the coaching staff be able to get everyone touches.
As crowded as that sounds, there are still a lot of carries which will have to be given to someone. In May, Tony talked about Mike Weber and his rushing stats for 2017. He mentions someone receiving Samuel’s 97 carries from last year, but I don’t think that is all. I also conservatively see Barrett receiving at least 50 fewer carries this year as the staff trusts Weber and McCall more than they did as freshman running backs.
With Samuel and Barrett’s touches up for grabs, there is about 150 more carries for the staff to distribute.
So let’s go ahead and dive in to the running back room for this week’s projections.
It took me a little bit last year to get onto the Mike Weber (R-Soph) train. I really can’t put my finger on why, but I was not overly impressed by him during the early part of the season. Sure, he ran all over Bowling Green, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Rutgers, but I still found myself thinking he left a lot of yards on the field. I really don’t know why. Maybe this is how J.T. haters feel?
Let’s go ahead and call it the Zeke Effect. This guy literally had to step in and take over for possibly the greatest running back in school history. Expecting Zeke level of play from Weber was my own fault. As the season went on, I really started feeling the urge to jump on the train. He seemed to get stronger as the season went on and you could see a toughness in his running that made me admire how good he wants to be. I am a huge Weber fan now and if it wasn’t for his backup being so dang good, I would have no problem pegging him for 1700+ yards rushing behind this offensive line and Kevin Wilson’s play calling.
A lot of people thought he was moving to H-back — and he may still wind up out there, but for right now I have Demario McCall (Soph) in the running back room, and that is where I like him. I completely understand the WANT for McCall as the next Curtis Samuel, but I don’t think they necessarily NEED him out there. With Weber possibly going to the NFL next season, there is more of a pressing need for him to be on the field at running back next year. While McCall is the backup, I really think he will be a major part of the offense this year.
Much like how Wilson used Jordan Howard (1,213 yards) and Devine Redding (1,012 yards) in 2015, I feel like we will see much of the same with Weber and McCall. There will be times where McCall lines up at H-back, but I think it will mostly end with him motioning to the backfield and forcing the defense to guess who is getting the ball. So while I have him as a backup at running back, McCall will be a major playmaker on the field this year and his stats will show it.
Behind the dynamic duo of Weber and McCall, you have a little more cloudiness with two guys fighting for the number three spot. Does the staff go with the sophomore Antonio Williams or the true freshman J.K. Dobbins?
As much as I read and heard about how amazing Dobbins was during the spring, it really doesn’t make much sense to me for the Buckeyes to burn the redshirt on Dobbins barring injuries. You have Weber and McCall ahead of him, plus a very competent back in Williams sitting right there. With that said, the staff has not been shy about burning redshirts on electric offensive players and I think this may wind up being the case with Dobbins. Whether he is third or fourth on the depth chart, I think we will see Dobbins play in a few games this year.
The forgotten guy is Williams, who only played against Rutgers last year when he had six carries for 28 yards. This is a prime example of the staff not being afraid to burn redshirts for young talented players. It’s not like Williams was some two-star who was added on at the last second and given courtesy playing time. He was a four-star recruit out of North Carolina and the No. 7 running back in the 2016 class. Most may not consider him when talking about the running back situation, but he is still a major player.
In the end, I think Dobbins will hold onto the job. He will get some valuable playing time to jump into that McCall role next year.
PREDICTED DEPTH CHART
- Mike Weber
- Demario McCall
- J.K. Dobbins
- Antonio Williams
PREDICTED RUSHING STATS
|PLAYER||ATT.||YDS.||TDs||REC.||REC. YDS||REC. TDs||COMB. YDS||COMB. TDs|
As you may have noticed, Weber and McCall are clearly the leaders in the carries department. If you add their carries to the 153 I expect Barrett to get, you will have 514 carries between the top three runners on the team. This is about 30 more carries than the trio of Weber/Barrett/Samuel received last year. The biggest thing here is giving McCall about 50 more carries than Samuel received last year. Ideally, Barrett will have even less carries and Weber has more.