“He certainly needs to improve. He has not been at full speed. He's much closer than he was. I'm going to try to get him in a game and determine if he can go. He had a tough injury for those kind of guys, that groin, abdomen injury that he had. So he's getting better.”
With all of the hype going the way of freshman running back J.K. Dobbins, it’s easy to forget who were anticipated to be some of the breakout stars before the season started. Especially at H-back, one of the playmakers was going to be Demario McCall, but he has yet to play in a game this season. Part of it has to do with McCall still recovering from a sports hernia surgery from this past spring. McCall showed flashes last season of what he was capable of during mop-up duty, rushing for 95 yards in the first three games before an 85-yard performance against Rutgers. McCall came to the Buckeyes as a running back and has floated between the two positions since he’s been in Columbus.
Right now, McCall is buried on the depth chart it seems. He’s clearly behind Dobbins and Mike Weber, along with Antonio Williams at running back. And for H-back, Parris Campbell has done well as the starter, with K.J. Hill also filling in at times. So where does he fit when he comes back from injury? It’s impossible to tell right now, but Coach Meyer still has faith that McCall can improve and we certainly haven’t seen the last of him.
“Ohio State has to get better -- in its passing game, in the secondary, in special teams. It can't live on its brand name alone, not after losing the one nonconference game that could have separated its résumé in the eyes of the committee. Ohio State earned its spot last year because the committee truly believed it was a better team than Penn State. It hasn't looked the part yet this year.”
Heather Dinich broke down programs in the AP Top-10 to show potential pitfalls for each team as they try to make it to the College Football Playoff. Each team above Ohio State got the breakdown, so be sure to check that out.
For the Buckeyes, though, Dinich gave some reasons why Urban Meyer’s team is the real deal. Mainly, there’s still room to grow and improve to show who they are as a team this season. She also mentions Ohio State has been in this position before, losing an early non-conference game only to turn around and rip off a winning streak that led to a national championship.
There are things to be optimistic about, of course. The Buckeyes’ defensive line is still one of the best in the country and though Barrett has received an insane amount of criticism, he’s seemed to take it all in stride and continue his excellent college career. Not to mention, over the next three weeks, Ohio State has it pretty easy schedule-wise, which should help a great deal in building some confidence heading into the big showdown with Penn State.
“I've seen a guy that's ripped his chest open. I hope it stays that way and he's a 'I'll do anything to help this team win a game.' Those are the guys whose careers will take off. The other stuff, I'll transfer here, transfer, go do a research project and see how many people fail when they're being given bad advice. He's handled it very well.”
The love continues for backup quarterback Tate Martell. The freshman signal-caller has only been used as a scout-team quarterback thus far, but that’s what makes Urban Meyer so thrilled about Martell’s potential.
Martell has been used as a Baker Mayfield copy when the Buckeyes played Oklahoma, and just last week, he helped Ohio State prepare for the triple option as Martell learned the system enough to help the defense get ready for Army. Having a former five-star recruit as a scout team quarterback is certainly a nice luxury to have.
To add on to that sentiment, Meyer is especially excited that Martell has embraced his role on the team despite likely wanting to see some game action. Since the offseason, it appears Martell has matured quite a bit and has done everything that the coaches have asked of him with his mind fully focused. That only spells good things for his future as a Buckeye, so despite being the fourth-string quarterback right now, he’s still setting himself up for success down the line.