Ohio State has two running backs on the 2018 team who have rushed for 1,000 yards in a season. That is something that most other teams can’t say.
Mike Weber rushed for 1,096 yards in 2016 as a redshirt freshman and J.K. Dobbins rushed for 1,403 yards last season as a true freshman.
In other words, the Buckeye backfield is the envy of most other college football programs.
The problem that could arise, however, is that there is just one football to be used between the two of them.
Weber came back for a fourth season because he believes he is going to see more carries than he did last year. Given his big-play potential, there is no reason to doubt him.
The question for running backs coach Tony Alford, however, is how does he split the carries in order to get the most out of his talented tailback duo.
“I don’t know. I think it’s just the flow of the game and how it’s going,” he said. “The one thing you do is you like guys that want all the carries. I was that way too with Coach [Earle] Bruce. I wanted all the carries. But at the end of the day, you do what you do. As I got older, maybe what’s best for the team is that I don’t get all the carries. As long as we’re having success. Those guys have all bought in, but they’re highly confident guys, so they want it. They want to put it on their shoulders too.”
Antonio Williams wanted the ball as well, which is why he is now off to North Carolina and a less-crowded backfield.
Transfers or discord may happen when players aren’t getting the carries that they feel they deserve. Does that ever pose a problem for Alford?
“No. No,” he said.
The desire is to have running backs who want the ball, because what good is a running back who is okay with deferring to somebody else?
“Absolutely. Absolutely. And you recruit that way,” Alford said. “That’s how you want it to be because if they didn’t want the ball, and they didn’t want to play, and they didn’t want to compete, then why the hell would I want them? I don’t want to be around them just as a person, let alone coach a player.”
Running backs have to be tough mentally and physically. If they don’t want carries, then what is to say they’re going to want that extra inch on fourth and one?
If a player isn’t going to fight for a spot on the depth chart, then they aren’t going to fight for a spot in a short-yardage situation.
Alford wants his running backs to want every single carry. And if they aren’t getting the carries, then he wants them working to improve enough to get more touches.
While he goes with the flow of the game when it comes to who plays when, if a running back isn’t going to work for carries, then he’s just going to let that player drift on by.
“If you’re not a guy that wants it and is hungry to succeed and compete, then why would I want you?” he said. “That’s just how I think. I’m not saying I’m right, but that’s how I think.”