"Just hand me the ball...I'm going to make things happen." - Mike Weber
It's been awhile since the running back position was a true question mark at Ohio State. Sure, the days after Maurice Clarett were far from pretty, but from Antonio Pittman, to Beanie Wells, to Carlos Hyde, and most recently Ezekiel Elliott: Ohio State has been very blessed at the running back position.
As we discover every three to four years, the players who were once question marks can sometimes become giant exclamation points, and that may be exactly what Ohio State has in redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber. While he is yet to take a snap on Saturdays, Weber has already gained quite the reputation in Columbus as potentially the next great back to race through the hallowed grounds of the Horseshoe. However, the future didn't always appear so bright for Weber.
"It was tough because I had a good relationship with him and everything was going good...I didn't really expect that to happen but it kind of opened my eyes to the situation of it being a business." - Mike Weber
The easiest way to describe Mike Weber is as a bowling ball. At 5'10, 220 pounds with breakaway speed, Weber was one of the more coveted high school running backs in the 2015 class. A four-star recruit out of Detroit, Michigan, Weber was an extra sweet get for Buckeyes nation considering they had to fend off a late surge from Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Thought of the day - What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive! - Sir Walter Scott— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) February 7, 2015
With the subtweet heard ‘round the world, all of a sudden Weber's commitment to Ohio State wasn't so clear. The issue stemmed from Ohio State running back coach Stan Drayton leaving the Buckeyes to take a position with the Chicago Bears. The problem wasn't so much Drayton leaving, rather Ohio State had forgotten to let their prized recruit know about it.
I'm hurt as hell I ain't gone lie— Mike Weber (@mikeweberjr) February 5, 2015
Things got real, fast in the Weber recruitment, as all of a sudden Urban Meyer and Harbaugh had their first massive recruiting battle. Luckily for Buckeye Nation, Weber decided to honor his prior commitment to Ohio State, and Meyer had his running back of the future.
"On the team, everybody calls me 'Baby 'Los,' Carlos Hyde ...I guess at running back that's my running style." - Mike Weber
All recruiting drama aside, the real talk about Weber begins and ends on the football field. Weber is a nasty runner, who has absolutely no issue with inflicting serious punishment on would-be tacklers. I don't use the term badass often, but how else do you describe a high school junior who chooses this as his first play on his highlight film?
If you haven't seen Weber before, I really hope the above is your first impression, because if a massive truck followed by a sideline long stare-down doesn't make you want to watch this guy play, then I don't know what will.
In Ohio State's power-spread attack, a physical running back is an absolute must. It took Weber all of one play on his highlight film to not only show that he doesn't shy away from contact, he embraces it. Add in a level of swagger that one or two previous Ohio State running backs have been known to show themselves, and you have yourself a badass named Mike Weber.
High school highlights are great and all, and believe me when I say that Weber has more than enough great tape to gush over, but at the end of the day, high school is high school. What can Weber do when it comes time to step on the big boy field?
While Weber's freshman year redshirt (if it wasn't for an ill-timed knee injury, Weber could have very possibly been Elliott's backup) doesn't give us any real game film, Weber put on quite the display in this year's spring game. The above run demonstrates just how physical Weber can be, as after finding and accelerating through the hole, Weber lowers his shoulder on starting safety Malik Hooker around the two-yard line and doesn't stop until he is safely five yards deep into the end zone.
The running back position can, at times, highlight players who don't necessarily deserve all the praise. How impressive is a 65-yard touchdown run if no one touched the player the entire time? Ohio State can find plenty of running backs with 4.5 speed and the ability to run away from defenders, but finding a back like Weber who literally appears to go out of his way to initiate contact is rare and something that could prove to be the difference between Weber and other Ohio State running back Bri'onte Dunn.
"He's a tough nut...He's a guy that has been doing very well." - Urban Meyer
Being called ‘tough' by Urban Meyer is praise that shouldn't simply be glossed over: Weber is a force to be reckoned with on the football field. Praise for Weber has come from coaches and players alike, as despite a limited 2015 season, Weber's performance in practice scrimmages were more than enough to open up the eyes of everyone involved.
The best thing to say about Weber is that his impact on the football field will never be doubted. On a team that consistently lines up starters on special teams, there will always be a role on the field for a player like Weber. Whether or not that role consists of 15+ carries a game is yet to be determined, but if Weber earns the starting nod for 2016: look out, because it may be about time fans to want to be like Mike again.