Outside of the obvious questions about when the Ohio State football team will be able to resume practices and whether the season will continue as scheduled, one of the biggest uncertainties currently surrounding the Buckeyes is whether Master Teague will be healthy enough to play this fall.
Before the coronavirus outbreak shut down spring practices and put sports across the country on pause, the greatest adversity the Buckeyes were facing this spring were their injuries at running back, where they were down to just one healthy scholarship player in Steele Chambers.
Now, what Ryan Day once described as “a little bit of a crisis” feels like a minor worry in the grand scheme of things, both because of what’s happening in the world beyond sports and because of the Buckeyes’ addition of Oklahoma graduate transfer Trey Sermon, which gives Ohio State a strong option to start at running back regardless of whether Teague is healthy.
Still, the Buckeyes would certainly like to have Teague available whenever they do return to the field. And while that’s very much in question after Teague suffered an Achilles injury during the Buckeyes’ opening practice of the spring, Day is holding out hope that Teague will be back on the field this fall.
While Achilles injuries often require long-term recoveries of up to a year, Teague can look to two of his teammates as inspiration to believe he can make it back for this season. Last year, Justin Hilliard returned for the Buckeyes’ third game of the season after rupturing his Achilles during a March practice. One year earlier, Tuf Borland made it back for the season opener after he ruptured his Achilles in March.
Day believes Teague is made of the right stuff, both physically and mentally, to potentially follow in their footsteps.
“Master’s a very mature young man, he’s got his priorities straight. He’s gonna attack this rehab, and he’s gonna do the best he can to get back as fast as possible,” Day said during a teleconference with reporters last week. “He’s a little bit of a genetic freak. So we’re hopeful that with our team and with his hard work and just the way his genetics are, he’ll have a speedy recovery here. But we also don’t want to rush it. So there’s a fine line there.”
While most Ohio State football players have returned home to their families while team activities and in-person classes are on hold, Teague – along with several other players recovering from injuries – has stayed in Columbus so he can continue his rehabilitation at the Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute on campus.
The current circumstances certainly aren’t ideal for an athlete recovering from an injury, as Teague won’t have access to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center or any of Ohio State’s athletic facilities until the moratorium on organized team activities is over, but there’s no reason to doubt that Teague will give anything less than his best effort to try to get back on the field as soon as possible.
“Master’s a very mature young man, he’s got his priorities straight. He’s gonna attack this rehab, and he’s gonna do the best he can to get back as fast as possible.”– Ryan Day on Master Teague's recovery from injury
He certainly hasn’t appeared to be sulking about his injury, as he’s shared multiple messages of positivity on social media over the past few weeks, including a video for elementary school students of him reading the children’s book “Miss Nelson is Missing.”
With Sermon set to arrive at Ohio State this summer, the former Sooner is the frontrunner to be the Buckeyes’ starting running back in 2020, but the depth chart at that position remains very unsettled. While Teague’s injury leaves the door open for Chambers or Marcus Crowley to potentially seize a spot in the running back rotation this season, Teague – who is 5-foot-11, 225 pounds and was timed running a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash in high school – was certainly expected before his injury to play a key role in the Buckeyes’ backfield after he ran for 789 yards on just 135 carries last season.
In the interest of Teague’s long-term health, the Buckeyes certainly don’t want to rush him back, especially given all the uncertainty that currently surrounds the 2020 season as a whole. But once he does get back, whether this season or next, he’ll surely be a candidate to play a significant role in Ohio State’s offense, just as Hilliard and Borland did at linebacker in the past two seasons even after their injuries.