Ohio State running back Demario McCall is not a patient person by nature. And if you think about his game, that makes sense.
McCall is known for his speed and big play ability, one of the most elusive and dangerous home run threats on an offense loaded with them. When he gets the ball, you generally doesn’t have to wait long for something exciting to happen.
He averaged 11 yards per carry at North Ridgeville High School, and scored 27 touchdowns in just 11 games with the varsity.
McCall came to Ohio State in 2016 and made an immediate impact as a true freshman with 354 total yards and four touchdowns.
His future seemed bright, stardom almost guaranteed.
But McCall had surgery for a sports hernia in 2017, and then missed most of that fall.
In his only extended action in 2017, he had 11 carries for 103 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers, and added a 35-yard touchdown reception as well. But the coaching staff shut him down one week later.
He was moved to H receiver in 2018, but struggled to get extended playing time behind Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill.
McCall’s total yardage from scrimmage has declined in each of his three seasons with the Buckeyes, from that promising 354 total as a true freshman, to 162 in that injury-plagued 2017, and then 160 last fall.
He came to Ohio State as an Army All-American and a top-50 prospect in the nation. After 2016, he seemed destined to live up to that almost immediately. Instead, he’s been stuck on the bench.
“Who wants to sit out? We all came here to play ball,” he said.
Three years into his career, McCall has been forced to learn a lot about patience. But that doesn’t mean he has to like it.
“I mean nobody really ever wants to wait,” McCall said. “They say patience is the key but I feel like sometimes you gotta go get it.”
McCall is back with the running backs full-time this spring. With Mike Weber gone, there is a clear path to regular playing time behind J.K. Dobbins, and it’s obvious that McCall indeed plans to ‘go get it.’
But through the first five practices of the spring, McCall has been slowed again by an injury, this time to his calf.
“I had a few knots in it and it was kind of tight on me but it’s good now,” he said last Wednesday.
The coaching staff is being cautious with McCall. There’s no sense in risking him aggravating the issue, especially when they know what he could bring to the field this fall.
“He can be a matchup nightmare,” said running backs coach Tony Alford.
McCall’s switch to receiver last year might have cost him some time on the field, but Alford said it will make him a real threat in the passing game.
“Here’s a guy who is adept at running routes, truly understands the ins-and-outs of the concepts from the receiver position,” Alford said.
“You put him in the backfield and shift him out into some empty sets and make linebackers go out there and cover him. That’s a matchup problem.”
McCall has always been a matchup problem for opponents. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry and 16.3 yards per reception in his college career. Now, he’s trying to translate that big-play explosiveness into a bigger role – and he doesn’t really care how it happens.
“Me and J.K. [Dobbins] splitting time and just being an athlete, getting put in the slot sometimes, punt return, kick return, special teams, just ball player,” McCall said. “Definitely think I’m ready. Definitely.”
Alford isn’t generally the type of coach to overhype his players. He typically gives positive, but somewhat restrained answers to questions on the running backs. So it really stood out when he was asked how much McCall would contribute this fall.
“Demario is going to play a lot, a lot of football for us. And he’s going to play really, really well,” Alford said. “I’m extremely confident that he’s going to play exceptionally well for us.”