One of Ohio State’s biggest losses from 2015 is that of running back Ezekiel Elliott, who finished his OSU career as the program’s second leading rusher.
Although two of them have never played so much as a snap, all three running backs who will contend for playing time this season were either four- or five-star prospects in high school. The battle for the starting job will primary be contested between fifth-year senior Bri’onte Dunn (a five-star prospect in the class of 2012) and redshirt freshman Mike Weber (a four-star prospect in the class of 2015). However, class of 2016 four-star Antonio Williams enrolled early and also drew praise this spring from running backs coach Tony Alford.
“We’ve got some good players,” Alford said. “You know something? Mike Weber is on scholarship, Bri’onte Dunn is on scholarship, Antonio Williams is on scholarship. It’s their turn. Go play.
“Once upon a time when Carlos Hyde was here – I wasn’t here, mind you – nobody was talking about Zeke Elliott. When he was a freshman he was a third-team back here. So the culture was built before Zeke and Zeke obviously enhanced it and moved the bar. And so now it’s someone else’s turn to go move the bar.”
What follows is a look at the three running backs on the roster who were highly recruited but haven’t seen a high share of playing time yet.
Dunn came to Ohio State as a five-star from Canton (Ohio) GlenOak and was rated as the No. 32 overall prospect in the country in the class of 2012. The last remaining player in the program who committed when Jim Tressel was the coach, Dunn has yet to live up to the lofty expectations many had for him. He rushed for 91 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries in 2015.
A four-star out of Detroit Cass Tech, Weber was expected to come in and contribute right away. Unfortunately for him, injuries prevented him from playing in 2015. He has the most explosive first step of any of OSU’s running backs and has a good chance to win the starting job outright.
The battle to replace Elliott is a two-horse race but Williams’ impressive spring put him in the conversation to avoid a redshirt. Although he has two talented players ahead of him, the talented four-star prospect from New London (N.C.) North Stanly could see the field this season.