COLUMBUS, Ohio — Although Ohio State is set to return 15 starters this season, the Buckeyes still have holes to fill. None could be bigger than the hole left by Curtis Samuel.
The No. 40 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Samuel served as one of Urban Meyer’s top playmakers in 2016. Since Meyer arrived as Ohio State’s coach in 2012, no player has starred in the H-back role of his spread offense like Samuel.
He became “the next Percy Harvin,” and now the Buckeyes must find “the next Curtis Samuel.”
How will they do that? Let’s take a look.
Perhaps no player in college football was as versatile as Samuel was in 2016. In his junior season, the now-Carolina Panthers rookie was the only player in college football to record at least 800 receiving yards and 700 rushing yards.
Samuel tallied 1,636 yards from scrimmage (865 receiving, 771 rushing) and 15 touchdowns (8 rushing, 7 receiving). His 74 receptions were the second most by an Ohio State player in a season, trailing only David Boston’s 85 catches in 1998.
Two primary candidates stand out as potential replacements for Samuel.
Throughout spring practice, Campbell served as the primary H-back on the Buckeyes first-team offense. A redshirt junior this fall, Campbell started his college career as a wideout but played running back in high school. That could give him the versatility needed to fill the void left by Samuel.
In his sophomore season, the former 4-star prospect tallied 175 yards from scrimmage (121 receiving, 54 rushing) and 1 receiving touchdown.
As a true freshman, McCall primarily played running back, but his versatility was apparent. In limited action, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound McCall tallied 354 yards from scrimmage (270 rushing, 84 receiving) and 4 touchdowns.
While he initially appeared to be the long-term successor to Samuel, the North Ridgeville, Ohio, native remained at running back throughout the spring. He and the Ohio State coaches, however, insist that a move to H-back remains a possibility.
What Ohio State’s coach is saying
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer on Campbell: “He’s standing out, big time. He’s one of my favorite players just because he’s so unselfish and he goes so hard. He deserves a great year. He’s one of our best playmakers right now.”
Considering Campbell’s ability, experience and the fact that he has been practicing at the position, it’s hard to imagine Campbell not starting the season as the No. 1 H-back. After a strong spring, the upperclassman has momentum on his side and likely will be one of Ohio State’s top playmakers when the 2017 season begins.
That’s not to say McCall won’t get an opportunity — be it as a backup running back to Mike Weber or in spelling Campbell. It is possible the Buckeyes will find ways to get two H-backs on the field, thanks to the versatility of Campbell and McCall.
At this point in the offseason, Campbell appears to be the next star player in Meyer’s offense.