Ohio State: Buckeyes’ choice of kick returners puzzling

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

The switch to Mike Weber on kickoffs has been a puzzling one for me over the last couple of games, and Ohio State really hasn’t addressed what prompted the move to put the sophomore running back in place of Parris Campbell. Avoiding those big collisions is most likely on that list of reasons, although Campbell is still going to potentially take some big shots as he gets more involved once again on offense as a rushing and receiving threat at H-back. Those head injuries that limited him in the middle of the season lingered for a while and were serious enough that he didn’t travel to Iowa, so if this is an attempt to cut down on the contact, that certainly would be a valid reason.

In terms of why Weber has received the call, that seems to harder to figure. Ohio State has players such as K.J. Hill or Demario McCall who fit the bill of the speedy, elusive mold required for that position. Maybe they even could give Denzel Ward a try. This is probably one additional way the Buckeyes feel they can get the football in the hands of Weber, a player they consider one of their best playmakers. He has shown impressive top-end speed and jaw-dropping jukes as he has recovered from the hamstring issue that plagued him early in the season.

But just in a head-to-head comparison, it’s hard to look at the numbers and not see an issue for the Buckeyes. Both Weber and Campbell have returned 9 kickoffs this season, and the edge in yardage is decisive. Campbell generated more than twice as many yards per return before stepping aside, averaging nearly 37 yards on his attempts, with a long of 82, compared to 15.9 for Weber. Heading into the postseason where field position is going to be at a premium, the Buckeyes simply can’t afford to leave that much yardage on the table.

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