COLUMBUS – Like most top shelf players, running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber will make only token appearances in Ohio State’s spring football game on Saturday at Ohio Stadium (1:45 p.m., Big Ten Network).
“We’re not going to risk them doing some stuff they don’t need to, but they will play,” Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said on Monday.
While Dobbins and Weber’s workload in the spring game is a certainty how the carries in OSU’s running game will be allocated in the fall is still in question.
Weber rushed for 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and after being limited by a hamstring injury early last season went over 100 yards in two games the second half of the season.
Dobbins rushed for 1,403 yards last season as a freshman and had six games of 100 yards or more.
Predictably, Alford offered no early projections of how Dobbins and Weber will be used this season.
“Just like anything else, we’re going to do what’s conducive to helping us win games. It will be a week to week deal but they’re both going to play. They’re both going to play a lot,” he said.
Dobbins says he has improved in several ways since last season. “I have more experience, my blocking is better. I just feel like I’m a better overall player. I’m a little bigger and I feel like I’m a little faster,” he said.
What he didn’t say was whether he thinks that is enough to make him the undisputed No. 1 back. “That’s not our decision, that’s the coaches’ decision,” he said.
Weber, who said he had a goal of 2,000 yards rushing before last season, appears to have dialed back his expectations a bit this year.
“I want at least 1,300 yards rushing or higher and over 15 touchdowns. I have to make the most of my opportunities and hopefully I get a lot of them,” he said. “Coach (Urban) Meyer has a good situation on his hands where you have two good backs who can pound the ball and take it to the house on any play.”
With a first-year starter at quarterback, probably either Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow, Weber also thinks there will be more running plays available for the backs.
“J.T. (Barrett) did a lot of running. There were a lot of games where he had more carries than both of us combined. But I feel like Coach has a lot more trust in his running backs and we have less of a running quarterback now, so we should get the ball a lot more,” he said.
Alford said keeping all his running backs happy is not among his concerns.
“I’m not the kind of guy to keep people happy. The guys who deserve to play are going to play. It’s not about keeping people happy. You’re happy when you’re winning,” he said.
In fact, if Dobbins, Weber and even third-team running back Antonio Williams didn’t think they should be the No. 1 back he’d be disappointed.
“You recruit that way. That’s how you want it because if they didn’t want the ball and didn’t want to play and didn’t want to compete, they why in the hell would I want them?” Alford said.