While the three-man battle for Ohio State’s starting quarterback job has drawn most of the attention the past month, the competition at running back has gone under the radar.
Running backs coach Tony Alford said he has enjoyed being in the midst of two 1,000-yard rushers and an upstart vying to be the main man in the fall.
The contestants are: last year’s freshman surprise with 1,403 rushing yards, J.K. Dobbins; Mike Weber, who had 1,096 yards in 2016 but was hurt early last season; and Antonio Williams, who asserted himself as the “other” back while Weber healed.
>> Video: Ohio State's Tony Alford on working with two 1,000-yard backs
Alford said he expects all three to contribute this season.
After practice Monday, Alford, a former featured running back at Colorado State and 1,000-yard rusher under coach Earle Bruce back in 1990, was asked whether split carries could keep either or both of the top two, Dobbins and Weber, from hitting their stride.
“I don’t know,” Alford said. “Again, it goes back to the question earlier about the Michigan State deal” last season when Dobbins started but Weber became the featured back as the game developed, delivering two big runs.
“I think it’s just how we feel the flow of the game and how it’s going.”
Dobbins and Weber said after practice Monday they like the battle and enjoy each other’s company, that they have improved from it. But each also has the desire to be the featured back.
Alford has no problem with that.
“The one thing is you like guys (with the attitude) ‘I want all the carries,’ ” Alford said. “I was that way, too, with coach Bruce. I wanted all the carries. But at the end of the day … as I’ve gotten older into things, it’s ‘What’s best for the team? And maybe it’s best for the team that I don’t get all the carries, as long as we’re having success.’ ”
It’s what he stresses, in meetings and in practices, he said,
“And those guys have all bought in. But, they’re highly confident guys. They want it. They want to put it on their shoulders, too. And Antonio is right there with them. So it’s all good.”