COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s offense has been successful enough this season to rank in the top 10 of both scoring and total offense, but it’s easy to wonder if the Buckeyes would have been even more dynamic with the help of Demario McCall.
At the very least, they might have been more entertaining. The fleet-footed sophomore from North Ridgeville, Ohio, appeared to be a star in the making heading into 2017. His ever-present smile and obvious talent have captured plenty of hearts within the Ohio State fan base. Instead of building on the 270 yards he rushed for as a freshman, though, he entered the season battling a groin injury and never got on track.
“He’s had a little bit of an injury,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the week of the season opener. “He had a hernia surgery in the spring. We’re bouncing him back between that hybrid [and running back]. He’s just gotta get stronger, faster and stay healthy. He’s coming on, but he’s got to stay healthy.”
McCall confirmed in the locker room after the Big Ten title game win over Wisconsin that the Buckeyes are planning to seek a medical redshirt for him ― a possibility Meyer alluded to midway through the season. McCall had just missed his seventh consecutive game, having not played since a 62-14 win against Maryland in early October. However, he noted that had he hadn’t been deliberately shut down for the season and would have been able to play had he ever gotten consistently healthy enough to do so.
“With my groin pain, it’s kind of on and off,” he said. “One day I’ll be feeling great and the next day I can barely run. So it was usually a weekly choice based on how I’m feeling. They never said they were just going to sit me for the rest of the year. It was all about how I was feeling.”
He was sidelined during the run to a conference championship, but McCall’s smile remained as bright as ever in the postgame locker room. A long year was coming to an end, but McCall said that between Ohio State and his family he had plenty of support to get him through his battle with injury.
“It did get to me a few times, but the things that always kept me going were my brothers on this team and my dad,” he said. “These boys on this team always tell me that God has a plan for me and I’m going to be all right and my time’s going to come. My dad asks me every day how I’m feeling physically and how I’m feeling mentally. I always tell him physically I’m feeling like this, mentally I’m feeling like this. No matter what I say, he always tells me keep my head up.”
On days when he could practice he served as the scout team running back, and he also occasionally filled in at H-back for Parris Campbell or K.J. Hill. When he returns in 2018, he’ll likely still have three years of eligibility and the same optimistic outlook that have helped make him a fan favorite.
“We’ve got faith in each other, and we just push each other day by day and keep going,” he said. “Next season I plan on having a great year. My number one goal is just to stay healthy and do what I do.”
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