Ohio State running backs pushing each other in spring practice

Dobbins, Weber expect to share load in 2018

The Ohio State Buckeyes received their Big Ten championship rings Monday. They’re about the size of an Apple Watch, though it’s unlikely they tell time or have wireless capabilities.

In fact, the rings don’t do much more than glitter, and that’s fine with the players, who were promised rings by center Billy Price at the low point of the 2017 season, the loss at Iowa on Nov. 4.

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“Everything that we still want to play for is still sitting in front of us,” Price told his teammates after that game. “That’s why we have this brotherhood. We need to come together as a team because guess what? I’m going to get me a big ring. Long live the brotherhood for this moment right now.”

Price, a fifth-year senior last season, is getting ready for the NFL, but returned to campus Monday to present the rings to his teammates, who rallied after that loss to Iowa to win their last three regular-season games and then beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Now they are preparing for their pursuit of back-to-back rings. That’s something Ohio State hasn’t accomplished in the Urban Meyer era.

If Ohio State wins the Big Ten championship in 2018, its running game will be a big reason why. The Buckeyes have always been known for producing great running backs — Archie Griffin, Eddie George and Ezekiel Elliott to name a few — and have the rare luxury of having two 1,000-yard back on the roster in 2018.

Mike Weber gained 1,096 yards in 2016 as a redshirt freshman. J.K. Dobbins led the team last season with 1,403 yards in his true freshman season.

Both will play a lot in the season ahead, running backs coach Tony Alford said, though it’s too early to say who will start or if one player will get the majority of the carries. That may change every week even if both want the ball on every play.

“It’s just about the flow of the game and how it’s going,” running backs coach Tony Alford said. “You do want all the carries. I was that way, too. As I’ve gotten older, it’s ‘What’s best for the team?’ Maybe what’s best for the team is I don’t get all the carries — as long as we’re winning. Those guys have all bought in. They’re all confident guys. They want it all on their shoulders.”

Ohio State fans can watch Weber and Dobbins, plus junior Antonio Williams and freshman Master Teague, on Saturday in the annual spring game. It starts at 1:45 p.m. at Ohio Stadium and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Most of the eyes will be on the quarterbacks — Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell are competing for the starting job — even though the running backs might be the team’s stars. Weber battled an injury early last season, and that allowed Dobbins to seize the starting job. However, Weber had two 100-yard games in November, and he’s been healthy since then.

“I feel good,” Weber said. “I’m eating right. I’m 100 percent right now. I feel like there’s always room for improvement. There’s a lot of things I have done but I know I could have done better.”

» GALLERYOhio State spring practice 

Dobbins said the players push each other in practice and get along well even though they’re competing for the starting job. He feels like a veteran this spring because he got so much experience last season.

“My blocking’s better,” Dobbins said. “I feel like I’m a better overall player. I’m a little bigger weight wise, and I feel like I’m faster.”


Ohio State spring game, 1:45 p.m., Big Ten Network

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