Ohio State Has Plenty Of Contenders To Carry The Football In 2016

With the departure of Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State has plenty of yards to make up. Lucky for the Buckeyes, there are plenty of contenders to make up for the lost yardage and carries that Elliott takes with him to the NFL.

Ever since the emergence of Antonio Pittman in 2005, Ohio State has been able to replace departing stars at running back with relative ease. 

Chris “Beanie” Wells followed Pittman, Daniel “Boom” Herron followed Wells, Carlos Hyde followed Herron and Ezekiel Elliott stepped in for Hyde to help Ohio State win a national title. 

Each of the above Buckeye backs recorded at least one 1,000 yard rushing season in their time at Ohio State, but as the Scarlet and Gray look to fill Elliott’s shoes, is there an every down, 1,000 yard back on the roster? 

“I don’t know,” said Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford. “I guess the question being asked is if we’re going to do it by committee, and I don’t have that answer right now. If we need to, absolutely. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win football games. If it’s by committee, it’s by committee. If it’s not, it’s not.”

If the Buckeyes do indeed use the by committee approach, there are a handful of athletes that could be in contention to carry the football out of the Ohio State backfield. The leader of the group thus far appears to be redshirt-senior Brionte Dunn, who has spent most of his time in Columbus as a member of the special teams units. 

The Akron native has carried the ball just 48 times in his career for 287 yards and three scores. The bulk of those yards came in a 2012 blowout of Illinois when Dunn carried 13 times for 73 yards and a score in mop up duty. 

The other running back that seems to be Dunn’s closest competition is redshirt-freshman Mike Weber who Alford described as “wide-eyed” when he arrived on campus at the beginning of the 2015 season. 

“He’s playing a lot faster and I think he understands what we’re looking for and what we want right now. He’s done a nice job but has to keep getting better,” Alford said. “He’s got a low center of gravity and uses his hands very well. He’s a very physical back and physical football player.

“He’s starting to pick the game up and learn the nuances of the plays in particular and where the ball should hit based on what the defenses are giving us.”

Weber has yet to record a carry in his time at Ohio State, much like class of 2016 early enrollee Antonio Williams who has caught the eye of his head coach, Urban Meyer. 

“The young guy, very impressed with, he might be the first guy to get that stripe off out of that whole group because he’s a tough nut,” Meyer said of Williams on March 29. 

While Williams was not the first early enrollee to lose his black stripe (wide receiver Austin Mack lost his stripe on March 31), he has clearly made a positive impression on his coaches. 

Outside of Alford’s room, a familiar duo have also been taking reps out of the backfield and could contend for carries in 2016. 

Senior H-back Dontre Wilson, who has 49 career carries for 350 yards is considered a potential candidate for touches both out of the backfield and from his H-back position as well as Curtis Samuel, who started his career at Ohio State as a running back before switching to H-back in the spring of 2015. 

Samuel, who has missed most of spring practice while recovering from offseason foot surgery, has the most career carries and rushing yards of anyone left on the roster not named J.T. Barrett. The junior has 75 career carries for 515 yards and seven scores, including six in his freshman season. 

With so many options to carry the ball in 2016, a 1,000 yard rusher seems unlikely. However if one of the candidates can pull away from the pack, it could mean adding another name to the list of Buckeye greats. 

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