There was a game early last football season when things were going well for freshman J.K. Dobbins, and Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford, wanting to stick with the hot hand, told Dobbins to get back in the game.
" ‘It’s Mike’s turn,’ " Alford recalled Dobbins telling him, referring to fellow running back Mike Weber, who had been slowed by a hamstring injury that helped elevate Dobbins to the starting job.
Alford was impressed.
“That tells you something about a young man,” he said.
Alford and the rest of the OSU coaches continually preach the “all for one” philosophy. And that moment with Dobbins is one reason Alford believes this season won’t be as much of a chain-saw-juggling act for him as some people might think, even though he has two backs who have rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season (Weber in 2016, and Dobbins last year).
>> Video | J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber talk about plans for 2018
And Alford threw another name into the mix Monday after the 12th practice of the spring.
“Antonio Williams, my goodness, the way he’s playing — so there’s three guys that are playing at a very, very high level,” Alford said. “They know the offense, they know the expectation level as far as our culture and how we do things. They do it right. They’re conscientious, and they help one another.
“So it’s very competitive, but it’s all very spirited. They help one another.”
But say it comes down to a two-man tag team, as it did last yet. How does Dobbins think it will work?
“That’s not our decision; that’s the coaches’ decision,” Dobbins said.
But what would make him happy?
“Ha-ha-ha, whatever the coaches do,” Dobbins said.
Weber was more outspoken about his aspirations.
“It’s a moment I’ve been waiting for since I got here: to put the team on my back in a game and just be the workhorse,” Weber said. “That’s one of my goals, and I asked for it, and hopefully I get it this year, and I’ll show a lot of people what I can do.”
As for those goals, they start with the team competing for the national and Big Ten titles, Weber said, and personally, “1,300 or higher rushing yards, and over 15 touchdowns.”
He thinks it's possible, even if it means splitting carries with Dobbins.
“I’ve just got to make the most of my opportunities, and I hope I get a lot of 'em,” Weber said.
Alford, a 1,000-yard rusher himself at Colorado State in 1990, understands the alpha-dog mentality of a running back, but he also likes the team-first dynamic in his room.
“Those guys have all bought in,” he said of Dobbins and Weber. “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.”