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Ohio State almost lost Mike Weber for the whole season

Little did we know that the sophomore running back was close to having season-ending surgery.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

“It was a significant tear right before training camp. They almost had to do surgery on him. So we were dealing with maybe a year lost before training camp.”

-Urban Meyer, via Patrick Murphy, 247Sports

The way that many on the Ohio State coaching staff have talked about sophomore running back Mike Weber’s hamstring injury, one would suspect that there is likely some tightness, perhaps a pull, that had kept him mostly sidelined through the first four games of the season. Meyer listed Weber as “probable” week in and week out. And with freshman running back J.K. Dobbins tearing up the field, racking up nearly 600 yards through five games, it seemed to make sense to give Weber a couple extra weeks of rest.

As it turns out, however, Weber is lucky to be playing this season at all. The unspecified hamstring injury that kept him out versus Indiana and UNLV entirely was actually a significant tear. According to Weber, the Grade 3 injury was nearly a complete tear of the muscle.

While it has required a lot of extra time in the training room and self-management at practice in order to recoup, Weber was keen to avoid surgery in the fall, which would force him to miss the entirety of the 2017 season. Instead, Weber was dressed and ready for the Buckeyes’ 56-0 blowout of Rutgers Saturday. The sophomore finished the game with a season-high 10 carries for 44 yards and three touchdowns.

In this case, surgery was not a necessity, but the fact that it was an option was an alarming revelation for fans expecting to see more of Weber this season. Now, with Weber back at 100 percent, fans can expect to see more of him and Dobbins together--perhaps on the field at the same time. It is a benefit to the Ohio State offense to have two reliable rushers in the backfield with two distinct skillsets. And it could not have come at a better time as the Buckeyes start their run through their conference schedule.

“It was a perfect ball. It feels amazing. You just know you have to make a play. You work so hard on something and you have to make it count. Off the line, it was just a release. I really just beat him with speed.”

-Ohio State wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, via Ryan Ginn, Land of 10

As the Ohio State Buckeyes continued to develop their passing game in prolific fashion against Rutgers Saturday, one of the most telling plays was one that was ultimately called back. Early in the third quarter, with the Buckeyes up 35-0, J.T. Barrett completed a 67-yard pass to wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, hitting him in stride and exemplifying what Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson have been steering the offense toward since Clemson shutout the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. Unfortunately, the play was called back on an offensive pass interference call on Dixon. Barrett would connect six plays later with wide receiver Binjimen Victor on a 23-yard touchdown pass, but his hookup with Dixon, though not appearing on the official stats, was the highlight of the drive.

With the Buckeyes already up big, they really didn’t need the additional touchdown in the moment. What they did need, however, were game-tested long passes to prove that quarterback and receivers were able to sync up when it counted. Barrett had connected on a couple similar passes throughout the game, and his connection with Dixon was icing on the cake. As the matchup against Penn State looms larger each week, Ohio State could not rest on its laurels and rely on a solid performance from its run game. Instead, the team needed to focus on its deficiencies and smooth them out to develop a more robust offensive performance overall.

Barrett finished the game going 14-for-22 for 275 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Like last week, the senior quarterback exited the game when it was well in-hand for the Buckeyes, taking a seat partway through the third quarter. It was a solid stat line, even without recording the completion to Dixon. Dixon, meanwhile, had a career game, with three receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

“On value, getting one of the most impressive centers in the NFL so far this year at pick No. 70 is incredible.”

-Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

It is no surprise to Ohio State fans that the Minnesota Vikings’ Pat Elflein is turning out to be one of the league’s best centers as a rookie. What came as a surprise, however, was back in April when Elflein, who won the Rimington Trophy Award as the nation’s best center in 2016, fell all the way to the third round of the NFL Draft. Widely projected as a second-round talent (it is, after all, rare for a center to be taken in the first round), Elflein had to sit tight while the Vikings, who were in desperate need of a center heading into 2017, drafted running back Dalvin Cook from Florida State with the 41st-overall selection in the second round.

Two offensive tackles went in the first round this year, in what was considered a poor draft among offensive linemen overall. Late in the second round, the Seattle Seahawks took Ethan Pocic from LSU--the first center selected in the draft. One more tackle and three offensive guards were then selected in the second round before Elflein’s name was finally called.

Elflein has been a workhorse since his arrival at Ohio State. He previously played at both guard and tackle before making the switch to center during his senior year (Billy Price, who replaced Elflein at center for Ohio State, made a similar switch prior to this season).

With quarterback Sam Bradford out with a knee injury, the Vikings had been leaning heavily on the run game, which naturally leant to Elflein’s strengths. Unfortunately, the Vikings released today that Cook, who had logged the bulk of the carries for Minnesota, tore his ACL yesterday against the Lions, and will miss the remainder of his rookie season. Still, Elflein can clear the way for his backup quarterback (Case Keenum) and running back (Latavius Murray).