At some point over the past couple of months, two players – Gee Scott Jr. and Demario McCall – came to an Ohio State coach to offer up the idea of a position change.
Oftentimes, like when Cade Stover moved from the defensive side of the ball to tight end, a coach brings the possibility to a player who hears him out. In that instance, head coach Ryan Day talked to the 6-foot-4, 255-pound Ohioan and told him he thought he’d be a natural fit working with Wilson on offense given his body control, explosiveness and toughness at the point of attack and ball skills. Stover agreed last year, and thus he’s now in line to potentially back Jeremy Ruckert up this fall.
In the cases of both Scott and McCall, Day says, the players approached the coaching staff to discuss moving positions. Scott’s learning how to play tight end, while McCall spent the most recent spring practice lining up at cornerback.
“My approach is that I want to do what they feel comfortable with. If they're not comfortable playing a position, then we won’t do it,” Day said on Friday. “It wasn't like I told Demario, ‘You have to go to defense,’ or Gee Scott, ‘You have to go to tight end,’ because if their heart’s not into it, it’s not going to work.”
Evidently, both the second-year from Washington and sixth-year from North Ridgeville are willing to try something new.
Scott arrived in Columbus as a top-100 recruit and the 10th-best wide receiver in his class, but he played only 14 offensive snaps and didn’t catch a pass his entire freshman season. With the entire receiving corps back, including projected first-round NFL draft picks Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, he faced an uphill battle for playing time once again in 2021. Those two, along with Jameson Williams, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming and others, populate one of the nation’s most talented position groups.
At tight end, however, the redshirt freshman wouldn’t have as many guys in front of him on the depth chart if he can assimilate quickly.
“He's a very mature young man who sees a future in that for him,” Day said. “Now whether we kind of go full-time with it or not, we'll see. But he's got the right idea on this thing. He has the right frame. He's very, very athletic. He thinks that Kevin Wilson can really teach him how to block, and he wants to do it. We're very, very excited about it. We think it's a huge opportunity for him and excited about where it's going to go.”
Whether permanent or not, the idea of Scott at tight end makes some sense when thinking about his size.
He came into the program at an already-ripped 6-foot-3, and the challenge for him has been to keep his weight low. A move from wide receiver to tight end might allow him to put on weight while retaining his athleticism and become a matchup nightmare. Even if he eventually moves back to wideout, as Day mentioned as a possibility, Ohio State's coaches hope he'll benefit from Wilson's teachings.
“We look at the way they're built, certainly their knee size, the size of their legs is usually a pretty good indication of how much weight they can put on and how much they can handle,” Day said. “He was doing everything he could to stay at 215. He actually said that. He says I'm fighting every day to be at 215. He says if I just have a few Big Macs I can get to 225 in a heartbeat. We think that his growth potential fits that of a tight end.”
McCall, using his additional year of eligibility offered to him by the NCAA, doesn’t need to change his body at all. At 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, he’s already cornerback-sized. Instead, he faced the challenge of learning an entirely new position on defense after spending half a decade trying – largely unsuccessfully – to find a fit in Ohio State's offense.
It’s exceptionally rare for somebody to alter positions this late in a college football career. Especially at Ohio State, it rarely happens. Day, however, claims the defensive coaches are “really excited about him.” He says they watched him do a few drills and “it kind of caught their eye right off the bat.”
To say McCall faces an uphill battle to earn playing time on defense would be an understatement, even with the uncertainty about who’ll play at cornerback this year.
Day, for his part, sounded downright optimistic about McCall on defense.
“He's been building and learning. It takes time to change positions like that,” Day said. “I know he's kind of done some different things for us on offense, but this is a huge opportunity for him. Kind of playing in that nickel spot right there is something that he's shown some good flashes early on. Now, he's got to keep learning, but he's got a great offseason – probably the best offseason he's had. Tremendous kind of feedback from Mick (Marotti) and strength and conditioning. We're excited about it. He's shown good leadership as an upperclassman. We're going to find out through the end of spring if this is something that's real. All indications early on is that he's going to be able to help us on the defensive side.”