Ohio State fans were spoiled with the likes of former first team All-Big Ten selection Ezekiel Elliott as the lead running back for the Buckeyes last year. The Dallas Cowboys’ first-round pick of the 2016 NFL Draft carried much of the load for OSU’s offense the past two years, but now the team will turn to redshirt freshman Mike Weber.
Weber, a native of Detroit and Cass Technical High School graduate, missed last season after he tore his meniscus, and the coaching staff decided to keep him out for the year. The redshirt helped Weber heal, while also maturing him as a player.
A former four-star prospect highly recruited by both OSU and Michigan, Weber only smiles and laughs now when asked about the Wolverines and the program that nearly snagged the 5-foot-10, 212-pound running back from OSU.
“I still get a lot of people that say ‘I wish you would have came here,’” Weber said. “But that decision has been made and I’m glad to be here.”
Expectations are high for Weber, with comparisons being drawn between the redshirt freshman and former OSU running back Carlos Hyde. These lofty hopes for Weber, along with the pressure to follow up a first-round draft pick, can toy with an athlete’s confidence.
With all the voices around him murmuring about the players who came before him, Weber said he is learning to block out the talk and turn his attention on playing as well as he can.
“I used to be worried about living up to those stat lines,” Weber said. “Now, I’m just focused on being myself and doing whatever I can to help this team out.”
The combination of junior H-back Curtis Samuel and senior wide receiver Dontre Wilson could take carries away from Weber this fall. Samuel has 75 carries in his career for the Buckeyes, and Wilson has said he could be receiving touches in the backfield during the season.
Regardless of the lack of experience for the second-year running back, OSU coach Urban Meyer is nearly convinced he has found his man to carry the ball through the trenches next year.
“Mike Weber has kind of separated himself,” Meyer said. “If he continues, we can make a phone call later on this week to call home and tell (his family) he’s the starting tailback at Ohio State. Not yet though.”
Weber has yet to appear in a game for the Buckeyes, with the exception of the spring game earlier this season. During the intrasquad scrimmage, he carried the ball eight times for 38 yards and two touchdowns.
Weber has 10 days before the regular season kicks off for the Buckeyes against Bowling Green to prove to the coaching staff that he can be the workhorse of the offense.