Ryan Day wasn’t kidding about Ohio State running back Mike Weber.
The acting head coach said last week that Weber had a standout preseason camp, something that no one was saying about Weber this time a year ago when he was dealing with a tender hamstring. On Saturday, the junior went out and proved Day correct at Ohio Stadium with a 186-yard, three-touchdown effort in the Buckeyes’ 77-31 win over Oregon State.
“We brought three guys up in the locker room” to be recognized after the game for stellar play, Day said, mentioning Weber alongside left guard Malcolm Pridgeon and receiver Terry McLaurin. “Those three guys have arguably been three of the best practice players we had. And they had really big days for us.”
Day had been expecting as much from Weber.
“I was really proud of the way Mike has practiced,” Day said. “We've been talking about that for a while now. He had a really good preseason. He's practiced hard, been taking care of the football.”
Most might not remember, but Weber contemplated leaving for the NFL after last season and the way he finished, and knowing that last year’s breakout star, J.K. Dobbins, who set an Ohio State freshman rushing record with 1,403 yards, was considered the No. 1 running back by most.
Instead, Weber opted to stay to improve his game and his standing, and to help the team take another swing at glory.
“I’m ready to do anything to help the team win,” Weber said. “That’s my job. That’s why I came back. I’m ready.”
Weber’s play was part of a 721-yard overall effort by the Buckeyes, who were led for the first time by sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. But it was the 375 yards rushing that made the difference, and receiver Parris Campbell said it was fun watching Weber do his thing.
“He was hitting holes like no other,” Campbell said. “I was saying to him on the sideline that he was realty toting the rock, putting his foot in the ground and making cuts.”
It was similar to the way Weber, who topped 1,000 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2016, played in the win over Michigan State late last season.
“It’s a scary sight, right?” Campbell said.
The Dobbins-Weber tandem developed into a one-two punch as the season progressed, and Campbell expects it to carry on. Although Dobbins rushed for just 74 yards on 15 carries, Weber picked up the slack with his 20 carries.
“It’s a great situation,” Campbell said. “That’s because when one gets tired, the other one comes in, and there’s no drop-off.”