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‘Now or never,’ Demario McCall in line for backup tailback role

Demario McCall-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State running back Demario McCall is in line for a key second-team role for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

‘Now or never,’ Demario McCall in line for backup tailback role

COLUMBUS — Demario McCall already was well aware of the stakes heading into training camp, but Ohio State added one more challenge just to drive the point home.

McCall was heading into his fourth season with the Buckeyes and hadn’t been able to find a consistent way to contribute. And if that wasn’t enough of a motivational carrot, the coaching staff started publicly asking for somebody to emerge as the backup tailback — and the message was clearly intended for the redshirt junior.

Now or never.

“For me, I do feel that way — like now is the time,” McCall said on Wednesday. “I’m finally going to get to show that it’s time for me to show it.”

“It got frustrating at a point, you know. It did feel like injuries held me back for a while, so now that I’m 100 percent, I get to actually go out and play football, be me and do what I do best. It should be interesting.”

The promise of entertainment from McCall has always made him one of the most intriguing players on the Ohio State roster, and few players can match his blend of speed, elusiveness and infectious personality.

But he’s also bounced around as wide receiver, H-back and running back. He had a chance to carve out a regular role on special teams and that failed to connect. McCall has also dealt with injuries and ball-security issues, and all of that has kept him from becoming the kind of impact player the Buckeyes have envisioned.

Ohio State has seen a different version of McCall in training camp, though. And heading into the season opener next week against Florida Atlantic, that has put him in line for a key role behind J.K. Dobbins in the Buckeyes backfield.

Tony Alford-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford is looking for more consistency from Demario McCall. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“Demario, yeah,” Alford said when asked for his second option. “Well, he’s bigger, so he’s obviously been able to be a little more physical. And he’s an older guy who is providing leadership and making plays, he’s playing with a real good rate of speed right now and doing well. I think one thing has probably helped him is he’s been able to focus on just this and not bounce around.

“For me, probably a week ago I decided that was the guy I would turn to because he’s done a nice job. It’s been a long camp, but he’s done a nice job for us.”

McCall still has to carry that over into the season, and that’s been one of the hurdles that has tripped him up in the past.

But if he can find the consistency, health and comfort in a specialized role for the Buckeyes, the chance for him to finally break through is there for the taking.

“That’s the conversation we’ve been having,” McCall said. “Going through camp, practicing, that’s pretty cool. It means to me that when it’s my time and my number is called, I need to execute.”

And if it doesn’t happen now for Demario McCall, the opportunity might never come again.

In addition to Tony Alford and Demario McCall representing the Ohio State running backs, the linebackers and tight ends also talked with the media on Wednesday evening. Interviews with Al Washington, Kevin Wilson and a handful of Buckeyes from those position groups are available on the Lettermen Row YouTube channel.

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Steven Borysiak
Steven Borysiak

Queue up the Elvis Presley song, “It’s Now or Never.”

Bryan Betts
Bryan Betts

Always wondered how McCall found his way into Meyer’s proverbial doghouse. Was it ball security, which all of us knew was a problem? Or was it something else? Was it attitude, skipping classes? Nobody knows. I have never known of a coach more unforgiving than Meyer. Once in Meyer’s doghouse it is a life sentence…. I for one am actually happy he is gone. How a head coach could allow US to be humiliated in back to back seasons against Iowa and Purdue is beyond me….not just beaten, ABSOLUTELY BLOWN AWAY AND EMBARRASSED in front of a prime time national… Read more »

Jeff T
Jeff T

A lot of places serve brewed decaf these days – you may want to start trying that option before ranting against a hall of fame coach with 3 national championships.

Bryan Betts
Bryan Betts

Thanks, but I prefer Single malt Scotch…This is a free forum where people can express their feelings. I was appreciative of what Meyer did in turning The Buckeye Program around, but it was time for him to go. Too much loyalty given to undeserving coaches, especially his “best man” Billy Davis, and his wife beater, pill popper and drunk Zach Smith. Not naming names, but two more coaches remain on the current staff who should have been fired by Day also….Their initials are GS and TA….If I had a coach on my team who EVER hit a woman, he would… Read more »


Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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