"I'm happy here at Ohio State. This is one of the top college programs in America."
Eleven months ago, Buckeye running back Mike Weber was at the center of some controversy. The four-star rusher from Detroit's Cass Tech was down to a decision between Ohio State and Michigan, and although he ended up choosing Columbus as his final destination, not everyone involved ended up happy. Thomas Wilcher, Weber's coach at Cass Tech, felt that Ohio State had duped Weber -- OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton, a key fixture in Weber's recruitment, left the Buckeyes for the Chicago Bears the day after Weber signed.
Still, Weber reported to camp in Columbus. He tore his meniscus, which isn't a season-ender, as injuries go, but for Weber, there was the minor problem of the man ahead of him. That would be Ezekiel Elliott, a marauder of a tailback who battered, bruised, and sliced through defenses all year. Weber redshirted rather than lose a year of eligibility in which he would never see the field.
Of course, Elliott is gone now, his legacy firmly imprinted with a national title, two terrific seasons as a starter, and a dominating performance in his last career appearance. It will be on Weber to take up the torch in 2016. Much like Elliott, Weber had a year to sit and learn behind an outstanding starter. Also like Elliott, Weber is expected to be the starter heading into his second season, but there are no guarantees. Elliott had to prove he was better than Curtis Samuel, and Weber might have to do the same if the Buckeyes move the Brooklyn native back to his traditional position after a year at wideout. Incoming freshman Antonio Williams could also compete for touches.
So is there anything left of all the smoke about Weber's unhappiness at Ohio State? That's a big fat 'no,' with the exclamation point coming from Weber himself (per Cleveland.com): "I am just going to let it all loose next year."
"I just want to play, basically, help this team win a national championship...that's all I want, is to play."
In keeping with the "talented guys buried on the depth chart" trend, Torrance Gibson has also been the subject of a fair amount of speculation since his Ohio State career began. Gibson came out of high school as a dual-threat QB, but the Buckeyes were already so deep at the position that there was almost no chance he would see the field as a signal-caller in his first season. So he switched to wide receiver, a position at which he had little experience but a lot of natural talent.
An ankle injury hampered Gibson's progress, and even once he was healthy enough to play, he didn't dress, thanks to academic issues. More mature at season's end than at its beginning, he told Cleveland.com that his punishment from Urban Meyer was deserved.
"I didn't deserve to dress...coming out of high school, I thought I was a hot shot. I thought I was this, I thought I was that," he said.
So what does the future hold for Gibson? It's natural to think that a four-star QB recruit would want a chance to take snaps at his preferred position, even if it meant leaving the school he had committed to. It would be at least a year before he really got that chance, provided J.T. Barrett stays healthy. Even then, Gibson would have to out-duel his 2015 classmate Joe Burrow, among others. But it doesn't seem like Gibson wants out of Columbus. The Buckeyes could be thin at wide receiver, meaning that Gibson would get touches. There's also the cushion that comes with not being the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship. A preseason No. 8 or 10 Buckeye team might take more chances than one desperately clinging to the top spot, which could open up the playbook for guys like Gibson. He might get the chances that Braxton Miller didn't in this year's frustratingly conservative offense. Gibson's a natural Swiss Army Knife -- here's hoping that Urban Meyer uses him like one in 2016.