The No. 5 player on this list may be the most exciting offensive player on the Ohio State football roster. He could end up being the ultimate change-of-pace back for the Buckeyes this season.
No. 5 — Demario McCall, So. Running Back
Demario McCall played in five games last season. Those five games were the five biggest blowouts of the season for the Buckeyes. Clearly, Urban Meyer and running backs coach Tony Alford did not yet view him as ready for a role while games were still in doubt.
The encouraging thing from McCall’s season, however, is that when he was given an opportunity, he did something with it.
Save for a two-carry performance against Tulsa when he rushed for just five yards, McCall was productive when he was on the field. He touched the ball at least nine times against Bowling Green, Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland, and his low output in those games was 73 yards from scrimmage against Nebraska.
He had games of 90, 84, 88, and 101 all-purpose yards.
The interesting thing for me about those games is that for the most part, the Buckeyes were simply running him straight ahead into the teeth of a defense that knew he was coming. They were just trying to run out the clock. Given Demario McCall’s size last year — maybe around 185 pounds — he wasn’t made for running between the tackles, but he did what he was asked to do.
For the season, he rushed for 270 yards on 49 carries (5.5 ypc), and a lot of that was done straight into a pair of defensive tackles.
Now 10-15 pounds heavier, and still just as fast as he has always been, what can he do with the entire playbook available to him?
What He Does Well
In general, he makes defenders look like bystanders. Demario McCall is a 4.4 guy with enough make-you-miss to wonder why he doesn’t touch the ball more.
He may be most comfortable outside of the tackle box, but he sets up his blocks well and has no problem cutting back into traffic. He’s not just an outside runner, however, because he can turn upfield in an instant and head straight for the goal line.
McCall can get to the edge with minimal blocking, but then he has the ability and agility to get a few more yards once the rest of the defense arrives. Because of his speed, there is no making up for a bad angle with him.
As a receiver, he showed last season and in the spring that he has quality hands. He can be an outstanding outlet receiver, or an even more dangerous primary receiver against linebackers or safeties.
Demario McCall in 2017
If you polled 100 Buckeye fans about which player on offense they were most eager to see this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if McCall came out on top. Ohio State is potentially one McCall touch away from six points at any given moment, so why be stingy with him?
Demario McCall spent the offseason getting bigger and stronger in order to be ready for a larger role. We saw what he could do in a limited role last season, and it’s not outrageous to project similar results with more touches.
What does that mean for him in terms of production in 2017? I don’t think 1,000 combined yards rushing and receiving is out of reach, though I also wouldn’t say that it is likely. It is difficult for me to really peg where McCall will end up numbers-wise because he’s just so different from what the Buckeyes have had in the past. He’s exactly the kind of player that Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson like to use to make life difficult for defenses, however.
Basically, there’s really no reason to go easy on him this year, so maybe get ready for a few more home runs this season.
What They Are Saying
“Curtis started as a running back then he moved to H as time progressed. Demario started at tailback and we have not — right now the plan is we haven’t talked about moving him. It doesn’t mean we won’t in the future, but right now we’re letting him go and we’ve got other guys at H that are viable players and really good players. They’re good players like Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill and EGW, you’ve got some cats running around that can play football too, so right now I think we’re settled in, but time will tell.” — Tony Alford in the spring about moving McCall to H-back.
“He’s handling (the weight gain) really well, but that’s a tribute to Mick, to our training staff, and really a tribute to him. He’s taken to it and he’s very diligent about how he’s gaining weight and how he’s taking care of his body, so he’s done well. I’m really excited. I love that kid.” — Tony Alford
“Who do I got to fight? If I have to fight Urban, no. I’ll fight Zach (Smith). I’ll fight Zach in downtown city hall.” — Tony Alford on fighting to keep McCall from moving to H-back.
“I’m a star. Most definitely. I’m going to stay confident, stay positive, whatever it is so when my number is called I’m going to go out there and do my best.” — Demario McCall answering the question of whether or not he is a star.