Redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber has a lot to learn.
However, after only one season as the featured tailback, Weber has been deemed the leader of the young Ohio State backfield.
With big shoes to fill after running back Ezekiel Elliott declared for the NFL draft, Weber excelled in 2016 winning the Thompson-Randle El Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Detroit native rushed for a team-high 1,096 yards with nine rushing touchdowns.
Even with all of the success last season, Weber is not taking that for granted.
“I try to put it past me and work as hard as I can to do better, reach more goals that I set for this year,” Weber said.
OSU running backs coach Tony Alford said that he has seen a change in Weber’s approach to his body, on and off the football field, as well as his approach as a leader in the locker room to the younger running backs.
Alford said that maturity and accountability comes with experience.
“He’s growing up, and I’ve said that. And every time, there’s a little bit more growth process going on,” Alford said. “He’s much better pro now than what he was as far as how he’s handling his business.”
Weber said that he has seen improvement in his ability to slow the game down a bit, watching the wide receivers and the tight ends and knowing what they will be doing. This increased knowledge, according to Alford, is the next step that the premier back needs to take.
“That’s the biggest thing for guys like Mike (Weber) is we know you know, you’ve done it before,” Alford said. “Now it’s time to perfect it and challenge yourself on every small little detail on what’s going on.”
One of the challenges Weber is facing is coming back from the rough end of the 2016 season. In the final two games of the 2016 season, a 30-27 double-overtime win over Michigan and a 31-0 Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, he combined for 50 rushing yards on 16 carries with only one touchdown run.
The sting, especially from the loss to the Tigers, has not quite gone away from Weber.
“I’m still getting over it actually,” Weber said. “I know we have to put it past us. I use it as fuel and I think we all do, on our team. I’ll tell you what, that bad taste won’t get out of our mouth until we play the first game.”
Even if Weber is focused more on what is happening on the football field, Alford views him as a leader and an example to the younger backs on the roster, such as freshman running back JK Dobbins.
“You are talking about a guy who has done it, done it at a very high level and he’s done it at a pretty good rate of speed,” Alford said. “JK (Dobbins) can learn from him by just standing with him, the same way Mike (Weber) learned from standing next to ‘Zeke.’”