Mike Weber had a lot of things go right for him in 2016. Then again, the year didn't exactly end how many expected it to either.
Weber became the third freshman running back in Ohio State history to rush for 1,000 yards in 2016, joining the likes of Robert Smith and Maurice Clarett. He even earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors, but the highs are clouded by the lows of the 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, a game in which Weber fumbles twice and earned just five carries.
“I’m still getting over it, actually. I know we’ve got to put it past us but I use it as fuel, and I think we all do on the team," Weber said. "That bad taste won’t get out of our mouth until we play the first game. That’s how I look at it.”
After surpassing the 1,000-yard mark in a 17-16 win over Michigan State on Nov. 19, Weber accumulated just 50 more yards on 16 carries in the final two games of the season.
Since then, running backs coach Tony Alford said he has seen the Detroit native mature and is doing a good job of leading a group of young running backs in spring practice.
“He is growing up. There is more of a growth process going on," Alford said March 30. "He has been a lot of fun to work with because he is a much better pro now than he was as far as how he is handling his business."
In addition to improving himself, Alford has tasked Weber with helping bring along promising true freshman running back J.K. Dobbins. Alford attributed Dobbins improvement (Dobbins moved past Antonio Williams on the depth chart last week) in part to the leadership of Weber.
"When Mike is not in and Demario (McCall) or Antonio is in, his job is to make sure J.K. Dobbins is standing right on his hip. And J.K., I have told him very clearly to listen to him," Alford said. "You are talking about a guy who has done it and at a very high level. He has done it at a pretty good rate of speed. Can Mike get better? Yes, and he will get better as we move along. But J.K. can learn from him by just standing with him, the same way Mike learned from standing next to (Ezekiel Elliott).”
As for what is in store for him and the running back group in 2017, Weber believes Ohio State's enhanced offense, led by Kevin Wilson, should feature more explosive plays, particularly from Weber himself.
"Last year, I kind of feel like we were a little predictable when it came to our play calling," he said. This year, it’s more creative, different, it’s what defenses haven’t seen from us and that’s what I’m excited about.”
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