A couple of weeks ago, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said the Buckeyes were still looking for a No. 2 running back to complement starter JK Dobbins.
A week later, he said Demario McCall had the edge at the moment.
This week, running backs coach Tony Alford said McCall was indeed his backup running back.
McCall is now a fourth-year junior, carrying three years of expectations and frustrations. Injuries have neutralized him the last two seasons, When healthy, however, he has been an exciting and productive player. The production in those brief windows of good health have both confirmed his abilities and frustrated himself and those around him.
That is why when speaking with reporters this week, he didn’t take long to acknowledge how appreciative he was to finally be healthy.
“Just individually, I just want to thank God for being healthy, 100 percent,” he said. “I haven’t felt that way in a pretty long time. So I do feel like myself and I do got goals set and I hope to just have a grateful season. Stay healthy through the whole season. That’s all.”
McCall missed most of the spring with a calf issue, but worked hard in the summer to add weight, get stronger, and get ready for the competition that camp was going to bring.
He made it through the summer just fine, and better than that, he believes he’s as good as he’s ever been. He is ready to get back on the field and all of his old moves will be coming with him.
“Yeah, they’re all back,” he said. “All of them. I’m bringing all of them out.”
While ability has never been a question with McCall, there have been other concerns throughout his career. Health and getting bigger have been the two biggest talking points. Health isn’t always something a player can plan for, but McCall has done everything in his power to prepare his body for what is about to happen over the next three months.
“He’s been much more intentional as far as taking care of his body,” said running backs coach Tony Alford. “And getting real close to our strength staff and our training staff and doctors. He’s big as he’s ever been. So I think in our position, that lends to be able to handle more of a load and more contact and things like that. So he’s had a really good camp and knock on wood. He stayed healthy thus far.”
Gameplanning is getting underway and there are plans in place for McCall. The offense showed glimpses of it late last year when McCall was healthy, but this year, those plans can get started right out of the gate.
And McCall can’t wait.
“The way our offense is set up, with me just being an athlete, I can be all over the place,” he said. “It’ll be interesting for how they use me, to be honest. Wherever they put me, I’m gonna just do it to the best of my abilities, just go to work.”
McCall isn’t taking this opportunity for granted. He knows he’s not the only one who has been waiting to see him healthy. Buckeye fans have been wanting to see more and more of him since the flashes he showed as a freshman way back in 2016.
He is aware that people are talking, while remaining cautious.
“I am. But then again, it’s my fault for some of it,” he said. “I’m gonna live up to it. I take the blame for it. I love it and I’m gonna keep doing what I do.”
Demario McCall has wanted to be more than a bit player for a long time now, and this season is his chance to show his worth to the offense. But it’s also his opportunity to step up and fill a necessary role. This team needs a talented playmaker to spell JK Dobbins, and McCall is simply working to be there for his teammates.
“I won’t call it pressure. I’ll just call it me just playing football,” he said. “I mean, big shoes to fill if that’s what you want to say. But with our older guys leaving, it’s me having a bigger role. But I just feel like I do have bigger shoes to fill and I’ve gotta go be an athlete and gotta go play football.”