COLUMBUS, Ohio – 2016 was a good introductory period for Demario McCall into the world of college football. Ohio State fans knew that the Buckeyes had something special there with the North Ridgeville (Ohio) native, but only got to see small doses of him late in games.
2017 is a new year, with a new number for McCall (he said that he is changing to No. 2, the number currently being worn by incoming freshman J.K. Dobbins. McCall is unsure what number Dobbins will switch to). What may not be known is what position that the talented true sophomore will end up at.
"I actually have not had any reps at H-back this spring," McCall said on Thursday after practice. "I have been fully with the tailbacks because we are running a little short. But we moved a lot of guys to H to get more depth so we can get going."
McCall is thinking that he might get a chance after spring ball to move to the slot and work on some things in order to round out his game and help him fill some of the production of the departed Curtis Samuel.
"I feel like at fall camp they might move me out to the slot and get more reps in the slot," McCall added.
Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford joked about the question of where McCall may end up.
"He does not have a say, he is going to be with me," Alford joked and said that he probably shouldn't say that. "Right now, that is where he is at and he has done real well."
McCall had 49 carries last season in late action for 270 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. McCall also had four receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown as well. That action took place over the span of five games and McCall did not see any action at tailback after the Maryland game.
What lessons did McCall learn as he watched Mike Weber and Curtis Samuel carry the load during the regular season?
"That just motivated me to go even harder," McCall said. "To come to practice and do what I have been doing, having a great spring and keep going."
Last season, head coach Urban Meyer said that two areas that needed to be addressed by McCall to see more playing time were to get bigger and hold on to the ball better.
"I have gained 20 pounds since I have been here. Came in at 175, I am 195 now," McCall said about the process of getting bigger.
"Talking about a guy that came here 170 pounds less than a calendar year ago," Alford added. "He is doing well. He is another guy that is very explosive and we have got to find ways to get him on the field and moving around."
And as for holding on to the ball? The coaching staff have been using padded bats during practice to simulate defensive pressure in trying to rip the ball out of the hands of a ball carrier. While McCall understands the purpose of the exercise, he is not a big fan of those bats.
"I am going to start hiding it, that thing hurts," McCall joked.
It has been effective so far as the running backs know what is coming and focus on their ball security.
"That is something that coach Meyer brought to practice," McCall said. "As soon as we get the ball, he wants us to tuck it and squeeze it. So as they are swinging a bat, they are swinging at the ball, that is what the defense is going to do, swipe at the ball."
What happens if a back mishandles the ball after taking a whack?
"I don’t know what we call it, but it is tough," McCall said. "Don't put the ball on the ground."