PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Finally, Urban Meyer is getting a glimpse at the loaded backfield of any offensive coach’s wildest dreams.
There was a chance it was never going to happen this season.
Now that Ohio State has a healthy Mike Weber back and piling up touchdowns, Meyer conceded that the hamstring issue that limited the sophomore in training camp and early in the season may have been a bit more serious than previously thought. And if a surgery was in play in August, that might have meant Weber wasn’t going to be when it came time for the Buckeyes to mix and match the pieces of an almost comically overstuffed roster of rushers.
Instead, Weber has responded from the rest and treatment. He is once again dragging helpless tacklers to the end zone, cutting with confidence and has the green light to handle as many carries as the Buckeyes can give him. The trick now is finding out just what that number should be with so many options at Meyer’s disposal coming out of a 56-0 thrashing of Rutgers that only hinted at the possibilities for Ohio State’s ground game.
“That felt good,” Weber said. “It was like a relief that I’ve been wanting to get for a long time. It’s been a long process, waiting, setbacks and going through a lot of things.
“But now, it’s going to be really scary if we get things going the way we want it to. The one-two punch is what we see in the future. I think if we get everything together, it can be really scary.”
The real nightmare has already passed for the Buckeyes, and it was much closer to reality than it appeared initially.
Weber was limited from the opening practice of training camp with his injured hamstring, but the tear was serious enough that a season-ending surgery was at least a consideration with Ohio State’s medical staff. Another flare-up before the season opener at Indiana prompted even more caution for the Buckeyes, who held him out of two games and gave him 14 total rushing attempts heading into the trip to Rutgers.
He nearly matched that total at High Point Solutions Stadium, turning 10 attempts into 44 yards and 3 touchdowns that offered a reminder of why Weber is so important to Ohio State’s vision for the power-spread offense. And with J.K. Dobbins thriving in Weber’s absence so far this season and adding 53 more yards against the Scarlet Knights, the Buckeyes are about to have a multi-headed attack that could be a handful for any defense.
But there’s still the question of just how many heads to use and how often. Just for starters, quarterback J.T. Barrett, H-back Parris Campbell and a healthy Demario McCall all offer something useful as rushing threats, and there’s only one football.
“[Weber] ran hard, and we’ve got to knock the rust off him a little bit, but there’s no doubt we want to get both of those cats involved,” Meyer said. “Now, we know he’s cleared, and he’s finally cleared, pain-free. For a while there, he had to fight through the scar tissue, because it was a significant tear right before training camp.
“Now, it’s go, and it’s going to be enjoyable to have those two checkers to work with.”
The reality is there are more options than that for Meyer to play with at this point, but the focus is justifiably on the two main tailbacks as he and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson start cooking up a plan to feature both of them.
The hot start by Dobbins turned Weber into something of a forgotten man over the last couple weeks. But aside from the obvious benefit of potentially keeping both fresh, Ohio State has consistently stressed that it always anticipates needing more than one option at a position that takes such a physical pounding throughout a full Big Ten season.
It won’t always be as easy to spread around the touches as it was against a team that was as thoroughly outclassed in terms of personnel before the game even started as Rutgers was on Saturday. And figuring out the exact right combination of touches or tinkering with some formations that could feature both guys at the same time can be a delicate operation.
But having too many skilled candidates for action certainly beats the alternative of not having enough.
“I think if you ask J.K., he loves it because he gets a little break every now and then,” Barrett said. “Those guys going back and forth is going to create a little havoc for the defense because it’s not like it regresses when one guy comes out.
“They’re both top backs in the country. So, I think this will just enhance what we do already.”
The Buckeyes at least had to think about doing it without Weber heading into the season.
Now, it’s finally safe to start dreaming bigger about just what kind of monster that backfield can become with him back.
The post A healthy Mike Weber is turning Ohio State’s backfield into a multi-headed monster appeared first on Land of 10.
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