Urban’s Two Car Garage

With Mike Weber hinting at a return for one more year with the Scarlet and Gray, we can now officially continue one of the most interesting debates of the 2017 season: can Mike Weber and JK Dobbins co-exist in Ohio State’s offense or will 2018 turn into a Fast and Furious style race to the finish? Conventional wisdom tells us that a team can never have too much talent, however, as we saw with the JT vs. Cardale debacle in 2015, the outcome of games is not based on how much talent is on the roster, but on how that talent is managed.

Over the course of the last 6 months, we have all been witness to the unfolding of a new saga. On one end of this story, we had the grisly veteran with a growling v8 under the hood. Here was a guy who had replaced an all-time great and was fresh off a somehow under-the-radar 1000 yard freshman season, but who was battling a preseason injury. On the other, we had an untested, yet highly rated true freshman powered by an imported prototype hybrid V12 engine, who had fought his own injury troubles to get onto the field. It was under these circumstances that Ohio State’s season began, with JK Dobbins thrust into the limelight, an inexperienced starter with no veteran backup options. Dobbins exploded onto the scene, with 29 carries and 181 yards in his first ever start. This freshman revelation led many to wonder what the coaches were going to do with Weber when he returned from injury. Was he going to lose his starting job or would he be slotted back in and pick up where he left off in 2016?

When Mike Weber returned to the lineup, it was immediately apparent that he was not being used in his former role. He still wasn’t 100%. And so, as the weeks continued along and the games in which he didn’t play (or was severely underused) piled up, a lot of fans forgot about Mike Weber as we were being wowed by this young, prancing colt in JK Dobbins who was galloping up and down the field. What we were seeing in Weber was a young man with a rugged and classic style of running who had been outshone in his first year as a starter by the versatility and game-breaking ability of Curtis Samuel and now in his second was being overshadowed by a true freshman that seemed like he had electronic traction control and lightning in his shoes.

Of course, the season didn’t end after the UNLV game, and Weber returned during the cupcake section of the Buckeye’s schedule.  In these games, it seemed like Urban, Kevin Wilson and Tony Alford were content to use the two backs in the exact same role, just trading them out every quarter to make sure they both had fresh legs in the 4th.  However, they were still growing into their own roles in the offense. Dobbins was able to create plays in the run game, and opening up holes for quarterback JT Barrett while in scoring position. Weber found his yards in between the tackles and in short yardage situations, including on the goal line. These new roles showed in the statistics, as Dobbins averaged 85 yards per game and had 4 touchdowns over the first 3 games of the Big Ten Schedule. In the same time frame, Weber averaged 61.7 YPG and added 4 touchdowns of his own. Bam! Ohio State had found its offense on the backs of two horses at tailback, one that could weave and one that could roar, and a quarterback that would take anything the defense would give him. What we thought we were seeing was a clearer definition of roles, however, both the Penn State and the Iowa game proved that no one really had any idea what this Ohio State team was. What these games did seem to show, each in their own way, was that Dobbins was becoming the clear number one tailback and Weber was once again fading into the background. This all lasted about a week until we were all once again proven wrong.

In the Michigan State game, the entire country saw what this Ohio State offense was supposed to look like under Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson: a three-headed rushing attack with JT Barrett, JK Dobbins and Mike Weber pounding the front seven of opposing defenses along with weapons on the outside to keep the defensive front honest. It was an offense in which you could try to reign in the horses, but one would always break free. The Spartans could attempt to stop Dobbins, and so they were gashed by JT. Then they tried to stop JT, and Weber was able to run free like a stallion down the middle of the field, breaking touchdown runs of 47- and 82-yards. Both Dobbins and Weber had a great game, Dobbins as an every down type of back and Weber as a change of pace battering ram with surprising, yet elite top end speed. All Ohio State got out of it was a 48-3 victory over a Top-15 team. This was the team everyone was expecting when Kevin Wilson was hired in the offseason.

The Illinois game saw Mike Weber take another step forward in production, once again outgaining Dobbins in a blowout, however, after playing reasonably well against Michigan, something seemed to change for the coaches. After averaging 10+ carries and 100+ yards as well as more than 1.5 TDs per game over the last 3 games of the regular season, Weber had 4 carries for 6 yards in the Big Ten Championship and 5 carries for 18 yards in the Cotton Bowl. Granted, Wisconsin had one of the best defenses in the country in 2017 and USC sold out to stop the run game, but even so, JK Dobbins had 17 carries for 174 yards against Wisconsin and 13 carries for 39 yards against USC. The coaches had apparently made up their mind about what Mike Weber was and is.

Basically what we’re talking about are two completely different runners, like two different sports cars. JK Dobbins is an Italian import– a Ferrari– agile with some freakish off the line get-up-and-go. Like the Ferrari, he takes the corners extremely well and can excite you every time he fires that engine up. Mike Weber is a classic American muscle car– a Mustang– powerful and gritty, but when you open it up, fast as the wind. He was built for the quarter mile and he’ll fly if he’s got room to go, but he’s not as fancy as the Ferrari in the corners. And now, with Demario McCall and the newest model, Jaelen Gill, looking like they’ll be pushing for touches, along with Antonio Williams and the highly touted freshman tailback class that the coaches brought in for 2018, Urban’s garage is getting smaller and smaller. The problem is, Ferraris are made by a racecar manufacturer with racing technology, while Mustangs are made by a truck manufacturer. Unfortunately for Mike Webber, it looks like Urban is going to try to ride his Scarlet Ferrari to a National Championship in 2018.

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