Ryan Donnelly/Land of 10
Demario McCall is carving out an important role on special teams for Ohio State.

Ohio State football: Demario McCall remains fascinating figure, useful asset for Buckeyes

Austin Ward

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Outside of Ohio State’s quarterback battle, there is perhaps nobody else on the roster who generates as much debate, interest or entertainment as Demario McCall. And coming off his injury-plagued season last year and with positive reviews already coming in so far this spring, the hype train is once again fueling up heading into the offseason for a player whose explosive athleticism and shifty moves has earned him a loyal fan base even while playing a limited role. But when it comes to projecting a significant role for McCall this year offensively, it may be time to pump the brakes a little bit.

For all of the sophomore’s game-breaking potential, there’s a pecking order ahead of him both at running back and H-back that is going to make it challenging for him to get many touches either as a rusher or a receiver. But it’s also why designating him for a full-time role on special teams could be so beneficial for both McCall and the program, keeping him involved with a chance to bust loose in space and also working with an eye on perhaps a much larger role down the line.

Parris Campbell, for example, is just one of the talented veterans in line for heavier workloads that could keep McCall outside of the offensive picture. Campbell is an overwhelming favorite to finish with more touches coming off a year that included 40 receptions and 10 rushing attempts, and both of those numbers figure to see an increase assuming he doesn’t miss any more time with injuries and continues his development as a home-run threat whenever the Buckeyes get him the ball on the perimeter. But it’s not just him, since K.J. Hill is also a factor at H-back and eventually Ohio State will be tossing Jaelen Gill into the mix as well.

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Demario McCall faces stiff competition for touches on Ohio State’s loaded offense. (Ryan Donnelly/Land of 10)

Along those lines, McCall isn’t likely to eat much into the carries of J.K. Dobbins or Mike Weber as Ohio State leans on those two top-shelf tailbacks on the ground with Antonio Williams coming off the bench as a possible short-yardage weapon. Mix in the quarterback rushing attack or a package for Tate Martell and snaps and touches could become even harder to come by, even for a player with McCall’s skills.

Ohio State recognizes his value or it wouldn’t be carving out a spot for him on special teams, an area where the program has lacked a consistent threat for a couple of seasons. In other words, it shouldn’t be viewed as a knock on McCall that he’s fielding punts and handling kickoff returns instead of being mentioned as a potential first-team performer on offense — he’s being tabbed for a starting role, and Urban Meyer places a great deal of importance on special teams.

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about McCall and his future, and he also isn’t just being counted out in this heated spring battle for playing time. But at least for now, his main opportunities to relish that spotlight look like they’ll be in the return game.

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