By now, we all know the storyline. Ohio State had to replace 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns from Ezekiel Elliott. Once Elliott got selected fourth overall in the NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber was next-in-line for the “Cadillac position in college football.”
Through three games, Weber has fit right in and has exceeded expectations of Buckeye fans. Not only has he demonstrated the power that was advertised, but he has shown pretty good vision, acceleration and agility to make defenders miss at the second level.
He’s shown his power. Per CFB Film Room, out of Weber’s 350 rushing yards, a whopping 121 of those yards have came after contact, which equals 2.3 yards per contact, per attempt. Remember how Elliott was never stuffed at the line of scrimmage and always found a way to gain a first down on third or fourth-and-short? Well, out of his 53 carries, the Detroit native has only been stuffed at the line or behind the line of scrimmage on two of those carries.
Weber has also shown his surprising shiftiness by forcing 16 missed tackles. By comparison, Curtis Samuel — who has gained Percy Harvin comparisons — has forced 12 missed tackles on 31 carries. Pretty good for a “power back.”
Most importantly, Weber has moved the chains on 20 of those 53 carries.
Below, Weber shows his vision and acceleration. It seems as though the game has already slowed down — after just three games — for the redshirt freshman, which is extremely rare. One could argue that Weber is ahead of where Elliott was through his first three games as a starter.
His ability to see the crease slightly open up, cut on a dime and accelerate through the hole is extremely special.
Below, the play is designed to go through the A-gap. In one of the few plays where the Ohio State offensive line failed to create a hole against Oklahoma, Weber used his instincts and speed to get to the edge and make something out of nothing. His ability to accelerate after his feet have stopped is pretty impressive.
If there has been one so-called “issue” with Weber so far, it has been his inability to break the big run that Buckeye fans were so used to with Elliott. There have been a number of shoestring tackles in the secondary that have brought down Weber, that could have gone for six. Out of his 53 carries, two of those have gone for 20-plus yards and 12 of those carries have gone for 10-plus yards. He’s gotten to the second level often; he’s just an arm tackle away from breaking the big one.
Here’s an example:
Overall, for a 5’10”, 212 lb. running back, Weber has showed a lot more than power as a runner. He has a bowling ball-like stature and a thick lower body, which reminds people of Carlos Hyde. But just like Hyde, he possesses great vision and acceleration, which makes him more than just an in between the tackles runner.
Buckeye fans should be exited for what’s to come with Weber, because although he hasn’t hit a home run yet, he has shown certain traits that would suggest him breaking one in the near future.
With the mix of the offensive line opening gaps for Weber, expect him to keep wearing down defenses and moving the chains. Fans obviously won’t forget Elliott, but Weber has made the transition much easier than most expected.