If you think you have a clue where Demario McCall where get the ball in Ohio State's offense this fall, you should stop right there. An electric talent with terrific speed and a burst that is hard to find on the football field, the sophomore said on Thursday he isn't quite sure whether he will play running back or H-back for the Buckeyes in 2017.
He did, however, say all of his time this spring has been spent with Tony Alford, Mike Weber and the rest of Ohio State's running backs.
“I like tailback,” McCall said after practice Thursday. “I gotta get better at pass blocking but tailback is where I feel comfortable.”
McCall said he was a little surprised he didn't start the spring with Zach Smith and the wide receivers to hone his skills as a route runner and pass catcher. It felt like a natural move, one that many on the outside of the program pegged as a likely destination for the former four-star recruit from North Ridgeville High School.
With Curtis Samuel on to the NFL and leaving a gaping hole on Ohio State's offense, McCall looked like he possessed the necessary skills and natural talent to strain defenses in a similar way as the former star H-back did in 2016. Not so fast.
“He doesn't have a say. He's going to be with me,” Alford said on Thursday, a massive smile spreading across his face. “No, that's just where he's at. He's really done well. He's gained a bunch of weight, at 192, 193, right in that range. You're talking about a guy that came in here at 170 pounds less than a calendar year ago. He's doing well.
“Another guy that's very explosive and we gotta find ways to get him on the field and get him moving around.”
McCall racked up 270 rushing yards and three touchdowns last season, appearing in only six games. He caught four passes for 84 yards too and scored on a 36-yard grab out of the backfield in the opener against Bowling Green, his first career touchdown.
So, the raw talent is obviously there. Now it is on Ohio State to determine where he fits best within the offense.
“The tailback stuff that we do, it goes along with the H-back stuff so I'm learning them both,” McCall said. “But I'm not actually in the slot yet.”
He added that a conversation between him and Alford took place before spring practice to discuss him working more at running back before potentially transitioning to the slot in training camp come August. Samuel did that — he played running back as a true freshman and even started a game in front of Ezekiel Elliott in 2014. Then last year he was the only player in the country with at least 700 rushing and 700 receiving yards to his name.
“Demario started at tailback and we have not talked about moving him. That doesn't mean that we won't in the future but right now we're letting him go,” Alford said. “We've got other guys at H that are viable players and really good players.”
Among those names are Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill and Eric Glover-Williams. Yet Alford said — jokingly, we think — he wouldn't be above racing Smith for the right to keep McCall in his meeting room. Crossing Urban Meyer is a bit of a different story, though, and the head coach obviously ultimately gets the final say.
“If I have to fight Urban, no,” Alford said, laughing. “I'll fight Zach. I'll fight Zach in downtown city hall, I'm good.”
The two even took to Twitter after practice to expand the start of the race to keep McCall even more.
@CoachZachSmith @DemarioMccall I'm all for it! 12 midnight at the 50 yd. line in the 'Shoe under the lights. Winner gets DeMario!! #Beatdown— Coach Tony Alford (@CoachTonyAlford) March 30, 2017
So McCall could play running back this fall. He might play H-back. He might play both. The season is a long way off. But for now, he is a running back fighting to back up Mike Weber and will wear No. 2 come the season opener at Indiana on Aug. 31.
“To be honest, it's just be ready when your number is called. We call it competitive excellence,” McCall said. “So whenever they tell me, go out there in the slot, I'm going to go out there in the slot and do what I do.”
Added Alford: “Right now, I think we're settled in [at H]. But time will tell.”