A Place for Demario McCall
Running back Demario McCall is heading into his fourth season as a Buckeye.
He has spent much of his time putting on weight or moving from position to position or being injured, and sometimes he’s been busy with all three.
McCall was out this spring nursing an injury after moving back to running back from H-back. It wasn’t a serious injury, but most of his career has been held back due to injuries that weren’t all that serious.
As a true freshman in 2016, he was a backup running back to Mike Weber. He touched the ball 56 times. In the two years since, he’s touched it just 50 times.
McCall has had to be patient while dealing with depth charts and injuries, but Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford doesn’t really see a need for patience from his guys.
“You can say, ‘be patient, be patient, wait your turn.’ Why?,” he asked. “As far as playing goes, a lot of times in a zone scheme you have to have some patience about some things versus just going like a racehorse. And those are learned traits. Those are learned behaviors. And he’s really done a nice job.
“Demario is a highly-skilled player, we’ve always known that. But we’re just kind of in-between what is he really, really elite at, versus really good at. So we’re trying to hone that in. There’s a valuable place for him in our offense with what we’re doing. And the energy that he brings every day is amazing.”
Changing the Game
Playing and coaching defense in football gets more difficult every year.
Tempo has made things tough, as has the spread offense. And having to defend versatile offensive players like Demario McCall don’t help.
Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison saw that first hand last year with the Wolverines.
While lined up in the backfield, McCall went on a wheel route and beat All-American middle linebacker Devin Bush down the sideline for a huge gain. He showed off his receiving skills out of the backfield.
It used to be that defenses could freely sub in and out, bringing in new packages depending on the down and distance.
Tempo has slowed the ability to substitute now. It still happens on almost every drive, but Mattison would prefer to have a versatile defense already on the field that can simply handle whatever shows up.
“I’ve made that mistake before where if you start trying to do too much and teams start spreading you out and they start tempoing and all of a sudden you say, ‘why aren’t you playing as good.’ ‘Well, coach I’m trying to think.’ One of the things as a coordinator that kills you is to see one of your defensive linemen running on the field as fast as he can to change from one group to another,” Mattison said.
“You just go ‘that’s so ugly, why is that happening,’ and that’s what offenses have done. So, therefore, you have to have enough good players and have enough scheme in the group that’s out there that you can make it hard on [the offense], but make it simple enough for your players. You used to love to put guys in. Penny package, nickel package, dime package. That’s what they’re doing, they’re keeping you from doing that.”
Wade In the Deep End
Shaun Wade’s career has been an interesting one so far in his two-plus years at Ohio State.
He arrived as the No. 2 cornerback in the 2017 class. He enrolled early and participated in spring ball.
Eventually, an abdominal tear was found, forcing a redshirt year.
Last year, the one-time No. 2 cornerback in the nation quickly took over the No. 1 nickel back spot for the Buckeyes. He spent some time at cornerback later in games and also started a game at safety.
He spent most of is practice time with the safeties last season, but was always able to slide in at cornerback whenever needed.
This spring, Wade was back at nickel back and was also the team’s No. 1 strong safety.
There is also little doubt that if he was needed at cornerback, he could step right in and be one of the Big Ten’s best.
When it comes to defending the versatile offenses that Greg Mattison mentioned, it helps to have a guy like Shaun Wade who can play all over the secondary.
It is a lot to ask of a player, however, which is something that secondary coach Jeff Hafley has been mindful of.
“I don’t want to make it too hard. I don’t want to make him to have to play this, this and this,” Hafley said. “To me, when you look at guys and you see schematically that you can call a position whatever you want…
“I am training the corners to cover, training them to play a third, training them to play quarters, so all of that going into it I am trying to teach him so I can plug him and play him where we need him. I think he can play corner; he can play inside. I have not seen him play much deep safety and I did not want to do that to him in the spring, but he is a talented guy.”