Can Ryan Day and Ohio State Finally Find a Way to Unleash Demario McCall?

By David Regimbal on February 11, 2019 at 2:45 pm
Demario McCall
Eleven Warriors

To date, Demario McCall's most significant play as an Ohio State Buckeye was an absolute disaster.

It came late in the first half of Ohio State's regular season finale against Michigan, which was ranked No. 4 and fighting for just its second win over the Buckeyes in its last 15 tries. 

Despite the Wolverines being favored, Ohio State was firmly in control, leading 21-13 with less than a minute remaining before the break. Michigan had just scored and kicked the ball deep to McCall when things went south.

One play later, Michigan found the end zone again and completely stole the momentum from Ohio State.

It would have been easy for former head coach Urban Meyer to put McCall in the dog house, but he and the entire coaching staff know the type of game-breaking ability he possesses. On the very next possession, McCall was back on the field with the kick return team and the offense.

The North Ridgeville, Ohio native bounced back quickly, hauling in a 33-yard catch on a perfectly run wheel route to set the Buckeyes up near the goal line. 

That sequence was the perfect microcosm of McCall's time in Columbus – random missed opportunities and inspiring flashes of brilliance. 

But with Ohio State needing to replace a ton of offensive firepower this fall, it could be McCall's time to shine.

The speedster came to Columbus as part of the Buckeyes' 2016 recruiting class, rated the second-best all-purpose back nationally and the No. 44 recruit overall. He had offers from schools all over the country, including Georgia, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee and UCLA, but the opportunity to be the next hybrid in a Meyer-coached offense was too much to pass up.

Much has been made of the Percy Harvin role – a well-built slot receiver with the ability to carry the ball out of the backfield – but a number of players have thrived in a similar mold in Columbus. 

Dontre Wilson and Braxton Miller put up decent numbers, but Curtis Samuel exploded in the role, registering 1,636 total yards of offense to complement 15 touchdowns in 2016.

Parris Campbell was the closest thing to a hybrid in Ryan Day's overhauled offense last season, and all he did was lead the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

With Campbell's departure, is McCall next in line?

When you ask him, that's not how he sees it playing out. Despite the "all-purpose back" label he carried as a recruit and the role he played over the last three seasons, he sees himself as more of a true running back than anything else.

Whether that's because he doesn't feel natural on the perimeter or feels he's a better threat in the backfield is uncertain.

“Back then, [the coaching staff] talked about me playing a bigger role at the H-back, filling Curtis Samuel's shoes,” McCall said last month. “It didn't go as planned.”

McCall has shifted into the running back room with J.K. Dobbins this offseason, and with the departure of Mike Weber, there could be a lot of carries available. Serving in a complementary role to Dobbins, Weber averaged a hair under 14 carries per game in 2018.

What could McCall do with a similar workload?

During his collegiate career, McCall has averaged over six yards on 71 carries, showcasing a speed and elusiveness that make him a nightmare for defenses in the open field.

If Ryan Day and Ohio State's overhauled coaching staff figure out a way to consistently get the ball in his hands, he could be in line for a big season this fall.

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