Ohio State sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins rushed for 1,403 yards as a true freshman last season. He was named a Second-Team All-B1G selection for his efforts. One year earlier, Mike Weber was also named Second-Team All-Big Ten following a redshirt freshman performance of 1,096 yards rushing.
Combined with Weber’s 626 yards rushing last season, the Buckeyes return 3,125 yards rushing from their last two starting running backs.
This is a dream situation for any team, but may not be a dream for the two running backs who are accustomed to dominating the football. There is, after all, just one ball to go around.
Weber, however, expects that football to find him more this year than it did a year ago when he was saddled with injuries. It also didn’t help his numbers when he was carrying the ball just nine times over the Buckeyes’ final two games and quarterback J.T. Barrett was carrying it 35 times. Those 35 carries were also five more than Dobbins in that same span.
The loss of Barrett perhaps means a little more passing, but it will also mean more touches for the running backs.
“Man, if you’re running the ball, you can control the game,” Weber said this spring. “Coach Meyer has a good situation on his hands with two good backs that can pound the ball and take it to the house on any play. I feel like that’s a good resource to have.”
Having two — or more — good backs is certainly an enviable situation, but if the running backs aren’t getting as many carries as they’d like, then issues can arise. Given the sheer amount of carries commanded by Barrett, however, leaves Weber to believe there will be more than enough touches to go around.
“I believe it’s possible,” he said. “I think if you run the ball more than 30 times per game, which we have been, I feel like since the quarterback is gone, it could be more carries for us. We can get 15-18 per game, unless we’re blowing somebody out or we get pulled or something like that.”
And with 15-18 carries per game for both Weber and Dobbins, you’re looking at arguably the most talented and productive running back duo in college football.
Weber could have left early for the NFL last season, especially after the way he was essentially ignored in the postseason. Dobbins could have come into this offseason believing every last ounce of hype he received for his outstanding freshman season.
Instead, they both want to see each other do well this year, and they are both making each other better running backs.
“We get along well,” Dobbins said. “We push each other, of course. We’re almost like best friends. We push each other well.”
“It’s a competition every day,” Weber added. “From tying our shoes to sprinting. Everything is competition around here. That’s how it is at Ohio State, period. It’s not just me and J.K. It’s every position.”
Every position competes at Ohio State. Players know that going in, and if they are caught off guard by it, they generally won’t be around long enough to complain.
Weber believes both he and Dobbins can be happy with their respective opportunities. Running backs coach Tony Alford has said in the past that it’s not his job to keep the running backs happy. Instead, it is their job to keep him happy.
But with two talented running backs — and more in the pipeline — it would be in everyone’s best interest to get them involved in the most productive ways possible.
So how do they get that done?
“We haven’t even discussed that,” Alford said during the spring. “We haven’t discussed that at all as a staff. Just like anything else, we’re going to do what’s conducive to help us win games. However that looks. Right now we’re just playing ball, and everyone’s had a good spring.
“Those top two guys have done a nice job. We’ll kind of see how it goes. It will be a week-by-week deal, but they’re going to play and they’re both going to play a lot. How’s that for a crystal ball?”