Football Ohio State needs Mike Weber to be a toptier running back

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer sees Mike Weber having a larger impact in 2017. Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing EditorCHICAGO — The lack of offense consistently shown in the 2016 season prompted Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to make staff changes. One of the most obvious weaknesses on the offense was the passing game, but that doesn’t leave other offensive players off the hook.As a first-year starter, then-redshirt freshman Mike Weber became only the third freshman running back in program history to rush for more than 1,000 yards. In year two, Meyer said Weber has to take the next step.“I do think he can (be a premier running back), and we need that,” Meyer said. “That’s a must. That’s a must. And it’s time.”Meyer brought in Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson and former San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Ryan Day to co-coordinate the offense and revitalize the passing game after finishing sixth in the Big Ten in passing offense. It was a move that had to be made following 215 total yards in an embarrassing loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.The development of the wide receivers for 2017 is still a major concern, considering the Buckeyes’ top three receivers last season graduated or are in the NFL. But after a successful first season, Weber’s expected contributions to the offense could ease some pressure on the wide receivers.“I don’t think (Weber) was a premier back last year, I thought he was good,” Meyer said. “And (redshirt senior quarterback) J.T. (Barrett) needs him to be a premier back. You want to be a great quarterback, have a premier running back right next to you. Have some premier receivers out there too. It’s time.”The combination of a stellar receiving corps and a running back who could only be stopped by a freight train is part of the formula that turned a young 2014 Ohio State team into national champions.Barrett, the 2016 Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, had his best season as a redshirt freshman in 2014 with a dynamic offensive play-caller in Tom Herman. He also had arguably the best running back in the country in Ezekiel Elliott.Meyer said he believes Wilson and Day coaching the offense will reincarnate that side of the ball into what it was during the 2014 season when the offense averaged nearly 510 yards per game, compared to 460 yards per contest last season.Weber, who scored nine times as a redshirt freshman, doesn’t need to be Elliott, but the shoestring tackles he consistently suffered and quiet games he had against tougher competition can’t happen if Ohio State wants to get over the hump in 2017.Meyer said the Detroit native has already taken steps in workouts and in the locker room.“He didn’t have the breakaway speed. He needs to pick up his feet,” Meyer said. “I want to say he’s lost seven pounds. He’s legitimate fast now. He wasn’t fast. He wasn’t mature. He’s very mature right now. “I’m hoping you guys see a different back. And he was good, but he wasn’t premier.”Running back pictureFreshman running back J.K. Dobbins was the No. 2 running back on the depth chart throughout spring camp as an early-enrollee freshman. Meyer said he’s earned his way onto the field with his play in the spring and continued improvement in offseason workouts.“He’s already proven the fact that he’s going to play,” he said.Meyer listed the running back depth chart as follows: Weber, Dobbins, redshirt sophomore Antonio Williams, sophomore Demario McCall and redshirt junior Parris Campbell, who is projected to start at H-back.

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