When looking at the 2017 depth chart compared to the 2016 depth chart, there are noticeable holes, but the team is in a much better place now than it was entering the 2016 season after a mass exodus of NFL departures and graduation. Using key departures, spotlighting players at important positions, leadership qualities, and recognizing the depth at each position, we came up with the 10 most important players on the team. They may not be the most heralded players, or even the best players, but they will be vital to this team’s on-field success.
No. 7: Mike Weber
Position: Running back
2016 stats: 182 rush attempts, 1,096 yards, 6.0 avg., 9 TD; 23 rec., 91 yards
Why he’s No. 7: Last season, redshirt freshman Mike Weber arguably had the biggest shoes to fill in college football, and to say that he exceeded expectations would be an understatement. The Detroit native cracked the 1,000-yard mark on the ground and more than filled in as an able pass protector — ranking as Pro Football Focus’ third best pass blocking back in all of college football last season.
But for as great as he was throughout the season, the staff went away from him in two of the team’s biggest games, where he only carried the ball 11 times for 26 yards against Michigan, and then five times for 24 yards and two fumbles (only had two fumbles during the regular season) against Clemson. Although this was most likely due to the game plan rather than a talent or lack of trust, it’s still alarming that Weber was left out of the Buckeye game plans in their two biggest games.
Mike Weber of @OhioStateFB force 47 missed tackles on runs last year. 4th best mark among returning B1G HBs pic.twitter.com/90z41H1sDu— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) June 9, 2017
Fast forward to this season and with the departure of Curtis Samuel, Mike Weber will be the man in the backfield. Sure, speedsters Demario McCall, J.K. Dobbins and Parris Campbell will get carries, but they don’t bring the hammer like Weber does on interior runs and are different types of backs. As we know, Weber is built like Carlos Hyde — which is perfect for Urban Meyer’s inside-zone scheme — and the others are not.
The return of J.T. Barrett and four offensive line starters, plus the addition of Kevin Wilson and, most importantly, the subtractions of Ed Warinner and Tim Beck should guarantee a 1,200-yard, double-digit touchdown season from the redshirt sophomore running back.
“There are a few plays that I’ve been asking for last year that he brought to the table,” Weber said about his new offensive coordinator. “I appreciate it, the plays that he brought in. I feel like he runs the ball more and finds different ways and different schemes to run the ball … that’s something that we as running backs appreciate.”
If Weber exceeds the very high expectations that he has for himself, the Buckeyes will find themselves in the College Football Playoff again.