When Ohio State announced that Bri’onte Dunn was dismissed for a violation of team rules, the attention immediately shifted to the future.

The future, and present, is Mike Weber.

The talented redshirt freshman is the assumed workhorse back after Dunn — his main competition — was booted from the race altogether. To some, that news was met with excitement. Weber was considered by many as the running back of the future, and frankly, he was easier to build hype for than a fifth-year senior who had never been the true starter.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. Ohio State fans aren’t used to seeing someone with zero career snaps step into such a prominent role in the offense. Sure, Weber was expected to at least get some work in 2016, even if Dunn earned the job out of camp. Now, all signs point to Urban Meyer giving Weber as much as he can handle.

If recent history suggests anything, the running element shouldn’t be too much for Weber.

There have been no shortage of dominant young tailbacks in the B1G, especially in the last two seasons. It hasn’t been exclusive to four-star recruits or run-heavy systems. Young backs of all shapes and sizes have hit the ground running.

Look at the amount of 800-yard seasons we’ve seen from first and second-year B1G running backs in the last two seasons:


  • Justin Jackson, Northwestern: 1,418 yards
  • Devine Redding, Indiana: 1,012 yards
  • Saquon Barkley, Penn State: 1,076 yards
  • Markell Jones, Purdue: 875 yards


  • Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State, 1878 yards
  • Justin Jackson, Northwestern: 1187 yards
  • Corey Clement, Wisconsin: 949 yards

Absent from that list were backs like Ke’Shawn Vaughn, L.J. Scott and Shannon Brooks, all of whom ran for at least 600 yards on 4.5 yards per carry as true freshmen in 2015.

Weber was in the same 2015 class as all of them. Meyer had every intention of using him to take some of the load off Elliott, but a torn meniscus late into fall camp prevented that. He didn’t get the true freshman reps Meyer hoped he’d get in the event that he took over for Elliott in 2016. Still, youth won’t be an excuse for Weber.

We saw what he was capable of in the spring game. He had the combination of power and speed that probably made Buckeye fans think they were seeing the next coming of Elliott or Carlos Hyde. He has the vision and physical attributes to succeed in Meyer’s offense. And even better, he’s in noticeably better shape now than he was in last year.

Like virtually all young backs, Weber will have to improve as a pass protector. Few, if any, did that better than Elliott. Even Barkley, who has more preseason hype than any B1G back, has significant strides to make in that department.

But unlike the successful underclassman B1G backs before him, Weber will likely be at the top of the depth chart on Day 1. Barkley, Jones, Vaughn, Scott and Brooks were all second-in-command at the start of their first collegiate seasons. The same was true of Jackson in 2014. Elliott and Clement weren’t lead backs as second-year players at the start of 2014, either.

Weber, in all likelihood, won’t have that luxury. Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel could get carries from the H-back position, but they aren’t exactly change-of-pace guys. True freshman Antonio Williams has shown promise since enrolling in January, but he doesn’t add experience to a backfield that lacks it without Dunn.

RELATED: Ohio State’s redshirt freshmen skill players star in spring game

This is an Ohio State team that was already the least-experienced group in the country, according to Phil Steele. An offense with three returning starters and a redshirt freshman tailback can be a scary combination.

Just don’t forget that one of those returning starters is a guy who rushed for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns two seasons ago as a redshirt freshman. That, of course, was before J.T. Barrett fractured his ankle. If he returns to form as a runner, that’ll take a big load off Weber.

This situation is a great reminder of why having veteran leadership at the quarterback position is key. Now there’s an even bigger responsibility for Barrett to help ease the transition ahead for Weber.

The hurdles ahead are more mental than physical. It’s a steep learning curve, though not an impossible one. It’s a rare opportunity that’s now Weber’s for the taking.

All the Buckeyes can hope for is that he runs with it.