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tBBC Pre-Fall Outlook: Ohio State Running Backs

Brandon Zimmerman

Pre-Fall Outlook: Ohio State Running Backs
Brandon Zimmerman
via our good friends at Buckeye Battle Cry
Visit their fantastic blog and read the full article (and so much more) here


It’s really no big deal at all. The Buckeyes just have to replace a guy who averaged 2,062 rushing and receiving yards during his two years as starter. No really trust me, it’s not a big deal they just have to replace a guy who scored 41 touchdowns over those two years. That’s not really that good is it? I know what you’re thinking, J.T. Barrett will be fine without a guy back there known as the best blocking running back ever and an offensive line with four guys starting for the first time or starting at a new position. Okay, maybe we should worry a little.

No matter how much you try to convince yourself, Ezekiel Elliott is no longer on the Buckeyes. He will go down as one of the greatest players to ever wear a Buckeye uniform but it is time to move on. The Buckeyes have some very talented players chomping at the bit to take his spot but no one should expect the second-coming of Zeke or even Carlos Hyde for that matter.

In February, I took a look at the four guys who I think had the best chance to take over for Zeke. Since then, it has essentially came down to a two horse race between redshirt senior Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt freshman Mike Weber. The elder statesman of the backfield, Dunn came to Ohio State as a highly touted prospect. As a true freshman in 2012, Dunn received carries in three games and had his best game against Illinois when he carried the ball 13 times for 73 yards and a touchdown. After showing promise, he has not came close to that many carries in a game since

Will the senior Bri’onte Dunn finally get his shot? (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)

and has yet to take that giant leap forward that many expected. In his defense, sitting behind two greats like Carlos Hyde and Zeke did not exactly give him the opportunity to succeed.

The other main vying for the starting job, Mike Weber came to Ohio State and immediately impressed the coaching staff last year. It was expected he would be the primary back-up to Zeke until he tore his meniscus and missed the entire season. After spending a year rehabbing and learning the nuances of the offense, Weber looks poised to challenge for the starting running back job. In the spring game, while Dunn sat out with an ankle injury, Weber flashed his skill running for 38 yards and two touchdowns.

Outside of Dunn and Weber, there are three guys who may work their way into consideration to receive carries. Junior Curtis Samuel has impressed Buckeye Nation at every opportunity and originally came to Ohio State as a running back but has spent a majority of the last year playing wide receiver in an attempt to get him touches. In February, I actually predicted Samuel would be the starting running back. During his freshman year in 2014 when Samuel primarily played running back, he racked up 383 rushing yards on 58 carries for an eye-opening 6.6 yards per carry average. No matter where he winds up, Samuel will be a major part of the offense this year.

Senior Dontre Wilson is in the same boat at Samuel. Technically, he is considered a wide receiver but you can bet that he will receive carries this year in some capacity. As many of you can remember, Wilson took Buckeye Nation by storm when he arrived to campus as a freshman. Before playing a down, Wilson had already been declared the next Percy Harvin and the best offensive weapon on the team. He wound up combining for 460 yards from scrimmage

This is a big fall for Mike Weber.

his first year on campus, which is very good for a freshman on a championship caliber team, but people were still disappointed in him because of the hype surrounding him. This year, Wilson has a chance to quiet the naysayers and show his potential at running back, wide receiver, and returner.

The final guy making a play for the starting running back gig is true freshman Antonio Williams. As I talked about in February, I really do not foresee Williams seeing the playing field this year barring any significant injuries in front of him. This is not a knock on his skillset, I just think the coaching staff would rather give carries to the quartet of Dunn, Weber, Samuel, and Wilson before burning a redshirt on Williams for a small handful of carries. Williams was an early-enrollee and had the benefit of showcasing his stuff during the spring while Dunn, Samuel, and Wilson nursed injuries. In the spring game, Williams ran the ball seven times for 29 yards.

Pre-Spring Predicted Depth Chart Pre-Fall Predicted Depth Chart
1. Curtis Samuel Bri’onte Dunn
2. Mike Weber Mike Weber
3. Bri’onte Dunn Curtis Samuel

I really am really torn with this. I am still not entirely losing hope Samuel will move back to running back as I think he is the most dynamic option back there but right now all indication is he will be a wide receiver. I realize I am pretty much the only person still throwing Samuel in with this bunch but I just have a feeling he will be a major part of the running game. I’m just going to leave this highlight video here of Samuel as a freshman running back:

Out of Dunn and Weber, I went with Dunn simply because he has showed promise in the past and the coaching staff has had a tendency to give the edge to the seniors at some points. With all the battles going into fall camp, this is the one I am the most excited about. Any of those five players I have mentioned could play a huge role in the backfield so I won’t be surprised if any of them are lined up in the backfield on the first snap against Bowling Green.

The post Pre-Fall Outlook: Ohio State Running Backs appeared first on The Buckeye Battle Cry: Ohio State News and Commentary.

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