Top 5 Storylines for the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes : The Backfield In Columbus, Ohio has a New Look

The days of Ezekiel Elliot starting at running back for Ohio State University have officially ended.  Including bowl games, Elliot rushed for over 100 yards in 17 of his last 18 games representing the scarlet and grey.

Buckeye fans, however, shouldn’t fret.  Quarterback J.T. Barrett is the prized possession of the Ohio State offense.  He’s got plenty of experience under his belt and brings dual-threat capabilities to the table.  With J.T. at the helm, life as a running back in Columbus, Ohio is more of a responsibility than a burden.  

No running back will be a true workhorse for the Bucks in 2016.  However, it appears redshirt freshman Mike Weber is the most likely tailback to lead the team in carries.  After watching some game film from his high-school days and his performance in the 2016 spring game, there are reasons to believe he can be the next star running back at OSU.  I’ll mention a few:

    1. No fear of contact – Some running backs are known for making the first man miss then getting as many yards as they can from there.  Weber (now 5’10” and a bulky 215 pounds) is able to use his frame to fend off, drag, or simply run right at defenders with no intention of avoiding them.
    2. A purely downhill running style – It’s so refreshing to watch a highlight reel not full of fancy moves and dekes, but instead a player who bursts through an opening at the line of scrimmage and guarantees his team a handful of yardage on a steady basis.  When Weber makes defenders miss downfield, it’s while he’s running full speed and makes quick body movement before taking a new trajectory for the maximum yardage he can gain.
    3. Vision –  This is what will make Weber an impact player at Ohio State and not just a potential star who didn’t live up to the hype.  On many of his carries, Weber doesn’t immediately accelerate.  He first uses his innate ability to scan the field of play.  Somehow he’s able to do this in a matter of about a second or so while usually jogging at a regular to slow pace before finding his best path and seemingly making an immediate transition into a full sprint.

 

Ohio State fans who yearn to see true freshman given the chance to make an impact on offense may have their wish granted with the arrival of Antonio Williams.

 

When watching some highlights of Williams, you can see, similar to Weber, he’s also a downhill runner.  The one edge for Williams over Weber is his elusive footwork.  He has a stutter-step move that puts defenders in the ground and is also able to make sharp cuts that are almost reminiscent of an NFL receiver running an out route.  When it comes to vision and rate of acceleration at the line of scrimmage however, Weber seems to have a major edge.  It will be very intriguing watching these two as their football-playing careers evolve.

The wild-card freshman in the mix is Demario McCall.  The 5-9 speedster has outstanding footwork and plenty of juke moves to show off on film.  It’s tough to imagine a player with his weight (listed at under 180 pounds) to be on the field much as a true freshman.  McCall seems like the kind of player that might be a secret weapon used in a big-time game later in the season.  On a weekly basis however, there won’t be much expected from the athletic newcomer to the squad.

Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel both should have a chip on their shoulder coming into 2016.

Curtis Samuel simply wasn’t even given much of an opportunity last season.  He had one game last season with more than two receptions and never even carried the ball five times in a game in the 2015-16 campaign.

Dontre Wilson didn’t get a single carry last season.  He seemed to show flashes of potential in his freshman season and midway into his sophomore season before a foot injury sustained at Michigan State in November of 2014.

When the 2016 season ends for the Buckeyes, it’s logical to expect Samuel and Wilson to be receiving the ball more often than carrying it.  The success or lack of it from Weber and Williams in the backfield will determine the fate of Curtis Samuel and/or Dontre Wilson from a positional need in 2016.

As many question marks as there may be heading into the post-Elliot era, it’s hard to imagine an offense led by the versatile Barrett to not find a way to succeed in the ground game.  

 

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