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2014 to 2016 - A Comparison of Two Similar Buckeye Teams: Running Backs
By Patrick Murphy
Elliott stepped in at running back in 2014. Now it could be Mike Weber replacing a star
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

COLUMBUS – The 2014 Ohio State football season will always be remembered for how it ended – the Buckeyes won the first College Football Playoff national championship – but nothing about that season came easy.

It was a group of young Buckeyes that head coach Urban Meyer called, “a team of development,” that grew up in front of fans’ eyes.

In his very early evaluations of the 2016 team, Meyer sees something similar.

I think I compare it, as I discussed with our staff, very similar to the 2014 team,” the coach said of his next Scarlet and Gray team.

“It’s a hunger. It’s going to be back to a 2014 team. A hungry, nasty, mean team.”

While there is a lot of talent to be replaced, there are also plenty of players with potential looking to prove their value, just like in 2014.

Due to Meyer’s comparison, we will take a look back to 2014 and find the similarities and differences between the two teams position by position.

Running Back

Similarities: Heading into the 2014 season, Ohio State was faced with the difficult task of replacing Carlos Hyde. The 6-foot, 235-pound bruiser just capped off the seventh-best single-season rushing year in Buckeye history with 1,521 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns.

In doing this, Hyde became Urban Meyer’s first 1,000-yard rushing running back in his coaching history.

Hyde was replaced by sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, who had just 262 yards and two touchdowns in his first collegiate season. While Elliott was bright prospect – the fifth-best all-purpose back in the class and top-ranked player in Missouri according to the 247Sports composite – and had shown some promise the year before, he was yet to demonstrate he could be the full-time running back.

Heading into 2016, the Buckeyes must now replace Elliott who’s coming off a 1,821-yard, 23-touchdown season and is projected to be the first running back taken in the NFL Draft.

Like last time around, the running back coach, now Tony Alford, is hoping one player emerges as the workhorse, but is willing to operate out of a committee if necessary.

Differences: The top two candidates to replace Elliott are redshirt

Bri'onte Dunn will have his say on the open RB spot
Photo by Jim Davidson
 

senior Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt freshman Mike Weber. Dunn has similar experience to Elliott when he took over in terms of stats – 287 career yards and three touchdowns – but has taken three years to reach those marks.

Weber is considered by many to be the next in the line of talented OSU running backs. Like Elliott, he was a four-star recruit out of high school and ranked one of the top players in country at his position. Unlike Elliott, Weber is yet to step on the field for the Scarlet and Gray and experience is important for young backs.

Neither Dunn nor Weber is expected to come in and step into Elliott’s shoes exactly. While they are all of similar size, Weber being the shortest at 5-foot-10, no pure running back on the Buckeye roster has quite the breakaway speed of Elliott. In fact, both Dunn and Weber are more similar to Carlos Hyde in style of play than they are to Elliott.

2016 Outlook: Urban Meyer is right more often than not with his recruits and he knows how important the running back is to his offense.

Hyde was a tough act to follow, but Elliott came in and exceeded expectations. Now it’s likely Weber’s turn, though Dunn will have his chance to earn the starting spot before his last year with the Scarlet and Gray.

Meyer and his staff want a more balanced offense in 2016, so whichever guy gets the nod likely won’t get as many carries as Elliott did last year (289), but they will get the opportunity. It took Elliott a while to start to become the player he was last season when he first named the guy in 2014 so Buckeye fans must give time to develop to whoever gets the start this time around.

Player profiles relevant to story:
20 - Weber, Mike | 25 - Dunn, Bri'onte
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