A Look at Gunnar Hoak and Ohio State's Most Important Backups in 2019

By David Regimbal on May 23, 2019 at 11:21 am
Demario McCall
© Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State probably understands the value of a good backup more than any other school in the country.

If you're just looking through the lens of the Urban Meyer era, backups played huge roles. 

In 2012, Meyer used starting quarterback Braxton Miller as the focal point in an offense desperate for playmakers, and he was at a higher risk for injury every week. Miller went down in Week 8 against Purdue, and the Buckeyes were forced to turn to little-known backup Kenny Guiton. He went on to save Ohio State's improbable undefeated season by leading an even more improbable comeback.

Guiton preserved Ohio State's undefeated regular season again a year later, filling in for Miller in games against San Diego State, Cal and Florida A&M.

But the backups were never more important than in 2014, when another injury to Miller forced redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett into a season-long starting role. Barrett thrived, leading Ohio State to the Big Ten title game, but he too was lost for the season after going down with an injury against Michigan.

You know the rest. Cardale Jones emerged and led Ohio State on a historic tear to and through the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship.

As the Buckeyes prepare for the 2019 season, there are a trio of Buckeye backups in particular who will play big roles 

Gunnar Hoak

Ohio State's quarterback depth chart was in great shape at this point last year. Dwayne Haskins was entrenched in the starting role, and even with the transfer of Joe Burrow, Tate Martell was a more than serviceable backup and Matthew Baldwin was an excellent developmental prospect. 

Fast forward a year later and Haskins is gone, both Martell and Baldwin have transferred and an outright crisis looked inevitable, even with the transfer and immediate eligibility of assumed starter Justin Fields.

The news that Gunnar Hoak was transferring to Ohio State eased those concerns immediately.

Hoak isn't a superstar, but he gives Ryan Day a much more reliable safety net behind Fields.

Demario McCall

Since J.K. Dobbins' arrival in 2017, Ohio State has employed a two-running back system very effectively. Dobbins and Mike Weber combined to average more than 2,000 rushing yards per season over the last two seasons, and while last year's rushing attacked slumped, both running backs shared the load well.

With Weber's departure to the NFL, Dobbins has the opportunity to capture a primary role in the offense. But since Day's arrival in Columbus, he's shown a desire to share the load in the backfield, and that's where Demario McCall comes in.

McCall has bounced back and forth from the running back and wide receiver rooms, but he's settling into the backfield and could be Dobbins' primary backup for this upcoming season, though Master Teague is also competing for playing time at that spot. 

Tyreke Smith

Despite the losses of Nick Bosa and Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio State's defensive line is one of the most loaded units not just on the team or in the Big Ten, but the entire country. Chase Young is primed to step into superstardom, the interior is absolutely stacked with Davon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell, Robert Landers, Tommy Togiai and Taron Vincent, and new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has a bevy of exterior pass-rushers at his disposal.

One of those pass-rushers is Tyreke Smith, who's expected to back Young up this fall.

Smith had an excellent winter and spring camp and turned the heads of the coaching staff and upperclassmen. Young himself has taken it upon himself to groom Smith into the best lineman he can be.

“Every chance I get to text Tyreke, or talk to him, try to get some things to work on with him, I’m gonna do it,” Young said. “I want him to be the best player he can be.”

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