Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson met with reporters on Wednesday and one of the first things he was asked about was the status of redshirt sophomore running back Master Teague, who went down in Monday’s practice with what is believed to be an Achilles injury.
Ryan Day’s standard operating procedure when it comes to injury is to be as guarded as reasonably possible, and while Wilson didn’t get into the nature of the injury, he was optimistic Teague’s injury wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
“I’m always optimistic,” he said, essentially negating the veracity of this particular instance of optimism.
But he doubled down when asked if Teague would be back in time for the start of the season, providing a coaching caveat as well.
“Yeah, I would think so. But time will tell,” he said. “I think the worst thing you can do, and for years I’ve said when someone says it’s a six-month injury, what happens if some guys just heal slower, and all of a sudden that kid or that family thinks he’s behind? It’s a two-week ankle injury, and all of a sudden it takes four? Some guys just heal faster. Their bodies recover faster. Sometimes they get treatment better than others. Sometimes the injury’s a little bit worse than you think.”
Without Teague this spring, the focus turns to everyone else remaining in the backfield. That includes redshirt freshman Steele Chambers, fifth-year senior Demario McCall, and walk-ons Xavier Johnson, Mitch Rossi, and Robert Cope.
But even then, the coaches have to be careful to not overwork the guys who are still around.
“Well, as hard as you go, practice, train, they’re in shape,” Wilson said. “But no matter what the position, if sometimes as a coach you will try to lean on players to get you through practice because he knows what to do. Or you’re thin at a position and what can happen is guys actually get too many reps and you worry about wear and tear at the end of spring ball and then how that transfers into the summer.
“Because all you’re doing through the winter and the spring and summer is — Coach Mick used this analogy a week ago — it’s ‘you’re not working hard, you work hardening.’ You’re hardening your body to be a solid practice player.”
There are plans to avoid overworking any of the Buckeye running backs and still get the offense and defense quality reps, but because of everything he is missing, Teague is still going to have to catch up.
And not just catch up, but get better.
As Teague recovers, his body will have to be durable enough to handle the wear and tear that running backs must possess. That’s a tough ask for players who aren’t practicing. Which is one of the reasons why Wilson says Master Teague will have to ‘cheat the system’ on his way back.
“So that’s gonna be the issue, as Master gets healthy, how can he cheat the system of getting healthy and also getting better?” Wilson said. “I always use the analogy that when you’re hurt, you want to get better. I didn’t say get healthy, you want to get healthy, but you want to get better. So you want to become a better ball carrier without running the ball. You want to catch the ball better without running routes. So how do you cheat the system so that you’re growing mentally, you’re growing with the skills that you can do?”
For Teague, all of these questions are yet to be answered. Given Wilson’s optimism, however, it would seem that he expects the questions to eventually be answered just fine.