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Ohio State’s Demario McCall ready for larger contribution in 2017

Demario McCall is ready to take the next step to become a star with the Buckeyes

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“It's because of how I am. Growing up I always wanted to be the top, but in order to get there you have to grind for it. You have to start your way down here and work your way up, right?”

- Demario McCall via Bill Landis,

With the announcement of Curtis Samuel heading for the NFL only a couple of days ago, Ohio State took a hit to their returning playmakers for the 2017 season. The good news is that there’s plenty of talent still coming back and left on the roster. Rising sophomore Demario McCall - who’s quickly turning into a fan favorite - says he believes he’ll be ready for next season to step into a much larger role than he did as a true freshman this past season. For his freshman year, the running back carried the ball 49 times for 270 yards and three touchdowns, while also adding four receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.

The most action we saw of McCall came during Ohio State’s biggest blowouts this season, such as games against Bowling Green, Tulsa, Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland. McCall showed off his speed and vision in those games giving plenty of reason for excitement for his future with the Buckeyes. While he seems adamant that he’s a true running back and would prefer not to play H-back for Ohio State, he does want to get on the field as much as possible. And since Urban Meyer and the staff already have a workhorse running back in Mike Weber (coming off an impressive 1,000-yard season) perhaps McCall’s best chance to see the most time would be playing a similar role to what Samuel did.

“The key to everything for Meyer is improving a stagnant passing attack that at times was almost completely nonexistent, and that process will require work at every level.”

- Austin Ward, ESPN

ESPN’s Austin Ward came up with the three of the biggest questions facing Ohio State in 2017: What’s next on offense, can the secondary reload, and how much will Luke Fickell be missed. All of those questions are legitimate concerns for the Buckeyes considering quite the overhaul of their offensive staff with the recent moves of Ed Warriner to Minnesota and Tim Beck headed to Texas to join Tom Herman. But Ohio State has also made some key hires, with the addition of Ryan Day as the quarterbacks coach and just recently hiring Kevin Wilson (former Indiana head coach) as the offensive coordinator.

So the offense with J.T. Barrett returning and a bevy of talented wide receivers at Ohio State’s disposal should continue to improve after fading hard in the latter parts of the 2016 season. As for the defensive secondary, it’s hard to say. The Buckeyes were in a similar position last season, especially at safety, but just like Malik Hooker broke out, it’s possible there’s a star in the making. The loss of Luke Fickell will certainly hurt a bit on the recruiting trail, but with Greg Schiano still on the staff as the defensive coordinator, one would think not too much would change for Ohio State defensively.

“[Big Ten Bold Predictions] Austin Ward: Ohio State storms back to the College Football Playoff”

- ESPN Staff

There were some interesting predictions on this roundtable of ESPN’s staff asking what the bold predictions were for the Big Ten in 2017. One writer had Michigan winning the Big Ten championship next season or Michigan State bouncing back in a big way after an awful 2016 campaign. Austin Ward’s prediction makes sense, too, considering the Buckeyes return J.T. Barrett and Mike Weber on offense, giving them a big bulk of their offensive firepower back. There were certainly key losses such as Curtis Samuel, Raekwon McMillan, Gareon Conley, and Malik Hooker, but nothing that seems impossible compared to the losses the Buckeyes faced heading into 2016.

There’s also the fact that Ohio State’s recruiting class in 2017 is simply phenomenal and is likely to finish first or second in the country when it’s all said and done. With that kind of talent coming into Columbus, there were almost certainly be a couple of true freshman starters at key positions, and if they’re as good as their five-star rankings indicate, that means only good news for the Buckeyes moving forward.