Double feature

Bill Rabinowitz
Mike Weber, seen here, and J.K. Dobbins have each had standout performances at running back for Ohio State this season. "If it's him getting 30 carries and I get five and we win, I'm fine with it,” Dobbins said. [Jonathan Quilter]

For two years, they have been Ohio State’s running yin and yang.

Dobbins and Weber. Weber and Dobbins.

Every running back wants to be the alpha male in the backfield. But Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins have been harmonious in sharing the running load for the Buckeyes.

Their partnership will end in the Rose Bowl against Washington on New Year’s Day. Weber, a fourth-year junior, announced on Twitter last week that he would enter next year’s NFL draft.

This season has not been exactly what either running back envisioned. Each has put up solid numbers, but not consistently superb ones. That’s largely because Ohio State became a pass-oriented offense with Dwayne Haskins Jr. at quarterback flanked by a deep group of talented receivers.

Dobbins has gained 1,029 yards, making him the first running back in Ohio State history to gain at least 1,000 yards in his first two seasons. But he gained 1,403 yards as a freshman in 2017 when he averaged 7.2 yards per carry. Dobbins averages 4.6 this year.

Weber is averaging 5.5 yards this season, slightly lower than he did his first two seasons, while gaining 858 yards.

But neither running back is consumed by his statistics, nor by where they stand in the pecking order.

“I am not a selfish person,” Dobbins said. “I am a team player first. Whatever the team needs to do to win a game, that’s what we’re going to do. If it’s him getting 30 carries and I get five and we win, I’m fine with it.”

They have taken turns taking the spotlight. Weber made a splash in the season opener against Oregon State when he gained 186 yards and scored three touchdowns. But he didn’t gain more 100 yards in a game again until he had 104 in 22 runs against Michigan State’s top-ranked run defense.

Weber didn’t play against Maryland the next week because of a leg injury. Dobbins ran for 203 yards in 37 carries against the Terrapins.

Weber said the rotation kept each running back fresher.

“It helped me a lot,” he said. “The Michigan State game, I was pretty beat up after that game and that was a 22-carry game. I thought we got used to having two backs in.

“That’s what a lot of programs are going to. A lot of big-time programs are doing that now, the way the game is evolving. The Big Ten is a rough conference, and you need a couple of backs to rely on.”

As a true sophomore, Dobbins isn’t eligible for the NFL draft until 2020. He may share some time next year with one of Ohio State’s younger running backs, but he is looking forward to being the featured runner.

“Of course, I am,” said Dobbins, who commented before Weber made his decision to turn pro public. “It was great having Mike here. (But) if I am the only guy next year, then I’ll be excited for that.”

First, though, is the Rose Bowl. Washington has a stingy run defense, ranking 15th nationally in rushing yards allowed (116.4 per game) and allowing only 3.53 per attempt.

“They are a disciplined team and they have some good athletes on defense,” Dobbins said. “It will be a great challenge for us and it will be fun, especially in the Rose Bowl.”

After a season in which they didn’t quite live up to lofty expectations, they want to go out on a high note.

“I felt it was OK,” Weber said of his season. “Decent. I did what I could with the opportunities I had, and I just want to finish strong, you know? You start it (strong), you’ve got to finish it.”