Mike Weber is not Wally Pipp — not by a longshot.
Pipp became famous for losing his job to New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig in 1925. Pipp missed a game. Gerhig took his job and started the next 2,130 games.
Weber, the leading returning rusher for the Ohio State Buckeyes entering the 2017 season, lost his starting job to freshman J.K. Dobbins because of a preseason hamstring injury. Coach Urban Meyer even got a question about Pipp when Dobbins broke an Ohio State freshman record with 181 rushing yards in his first game
“How many players you think know (about Pipp)?” Meyer responded.
The answer would be few. On the other hand, everyone knows what Weber can do — he rushed for 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman a season ago — and that’s why he has found his way back into the rotation at running back. He carried the ball 10 times for 44 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in a 56-0 victory at Rutgers.
Moving forward, even if Dobbins continues to start, it appears the Buckeyes will rely on a powerful tandem in the running game. That’s fine with them.
“We’re roommates the day before the game in the hotel,” said Weber on Tuesday after practice as the No. 10 Buckeyes continued preparation for a 4 p.m. Saturday home game against Maryland. “We always talk about stuff like that, being a one-two punch. Our goal is to be the best one in the country. Coach Meyer has been working hard on getting us together and trying to get it set so the two of us can be on the field at the same time. It should be really nice.”
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Weber’s hamstring kept him out of the first practices in August and bothered him for weeks. He didn’t play in the opener or in the fourth game against UNLV. He received his most significant playing time at Rutgers and said he’s not having any problems with his hamstring now.
“I feel like I had to get my feet wet a little bit, get the rust off a little bit,” Weber said. “I should be all right for the rest of the season.”
Getting healthy and staying healthy is a full-time job, Weber said, one made more difficult by all this other responsibilities: classes, practice, meetings, tutoring, etc.
“You’ve just got to stay on top of it, make sure you’re taking all your vitamins, getting all the treatment you can,” Weber said. “There’s no such thing as naps anymore. You’ve got to go back to the training room and make sure you’re ready for practice. Drinking and eating the right stuff, the little things really matter to keep you on the field.”
Weber paired with Dobbins, who ranks third in the Big Ten with 573 rushing yards, allows Ohio State to show a similar look to last season when Weber shared the field with Curtis Samuel.
“We’ve got some packages we’re looking at,” running backs coach Tony Alford said. “We’ll see if we can get them both on the field. They’re two dynamic players. They’re two of our best playmakers on offense. It’s just a matter of how we want to use those pieces in the chess game. It’s early in the week. We’re still talking about it.”
A two-back set allows Ohio State to keep both players fresh. Alford also knows neither will complain if the other gets more carries.
“They’re really good friends,” he said. “They champion each other’s efforts. They have some similar skill sets but also some very different skill sets they can use to be dangerous.”