Demario McCall showed flashes of potential as a freshman in 2016. Even though he basically only carried the ball while pointed up the middle in blowouts, McCall was still able to rush for 270 yards and catch four passes for 84 yards. He even worked his way up the depth chart to become Mike Weber’s backup.
However, considering that Curtis Samuel and J.T. Barrett were also carrying the ball for the Buckeyes, there wasn’t exactly a large demand for McCall’s services.
The expectations understandably picked up for him prior to last season, but those expectations were never met due to a persistent groin injury.
Week after week, Urban Meyer would say that Demario McCall still wasn’t where he needed to be in order to play. Even against Rutgers where he finally did see some action — carrying the ball 11 times for 103 yards and catching a 35-yard touchdown pass — Meyer said after the game that McCall still wasn’t as explosive as he could be.
As it turned out, the injury wasn’t new, and had even bothered McCall as a freshman.
“I hurt it before I even came to Ohio State,” he said this spring. “I had a groin problem, but I never knew what it was. It really started bothering me once I got here and got to moving. I had surgery after the spring game last year.”
The surgery essentially cost him the 2017 season. He played in a few games, but redshirted due to the injury.
Missing games is never easy for a player, and it certainly wasn’t for McCall. He knew why he couldn’t play, but that didn’t ease the frustration that he felt.
“It wasn’t strange because I understood. There was a reason why I wasn’t on the field,” he said. “But it was very frustrating. Not being able to do what I do and be who I am, it was definitely frustrating.”
As players who are dealing with injuries do, they work on their rehabilitation and they maintain their study habits with teammates. While in the NFL an injured teammate can essentially disappear from the team, at Ohio State, McCall’s teammates stayed on him, as did his family.
“I dealt with it,” he said. “It was pretty frustrating, but the guys around me and my family kept me up every day. They kept me positive every day, telling me to just keep working and staying in the training room and keep getting better. They definitely had my back.”
Due to the severity of the injury and the subsequent surgery, McCall knew he couldn’t give the Buckeyes what they needed. Now, however, he is the healthiest he has ever been at Ohio State. He showed this spring what he could do after moving from running back to H-back, especially in the spring game with 11 catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns. His playmaking ability should make for an explosive addition to the Ohio State offense.
His confidence has also returned, which is essential to growing and improving. Now he looks forward to having a successful season with the Buckeyes. And he knows that as long as he gets on the field, the production will follow, just as it did this spring.
“Just get playing time and touches,” he said. “That’s all. Just get on the field. Earn my way onto the field. Once I get on the field, it should show from there.”