Back in 2014, a junior at North Ridgeville High School named DeMario McCall set the Lorain County rushing record with 445 yards in one game. He gained those yards on 26 carries, with six of those going for touchdowns. Unfortunately the Rangers lost that game.
The Rangers didn't pick up many team honors in 2014, but McCall made the Division II first team in Ohio. He also led the state in scoring with 228 points, led the state in touchdowns with 38, and was the state's leading junior rusher with over 2,300 yards. He had an astonishing 10.5 yards per carry average that year. Note: All honors were for the regular season only.
With accolades raining down on McCall, he quickly accepted a scholarship to the Ohio State University before his senior season and the sky was the limit for his last season in high school. Unfortunately, injuries slowed him down his senior season and he finished the campaign with 600 or so yards. Way off the pace. No serious injuries, but nagging injuries. Injuries....well, no one wants to lose their scholarship.
Nagging injuries. Let's dwell on that for just a second. Your senior year in high school, your coach should be fighting you to keep you off the field. Not the impression I got, but I'm an outsider looking in and we'll circle back around to that point later.
McCall went to Ohio State and got onto the field as a true freshman, which is impressive. But he didn't exactly light up the stats page.
Click on Stat Line for entire page of stats at ESPN
The 270 yards rolled up across the entire 2016 season were a bit deceptive, because a majority of those yards were in mop-up duty in wins of 77-10, 58-0, and 62-3. How many college teams consistently put up 60 point victories in 2016? He didn't get on the field in any games that were decided by 40 points or less.
Expectations were higher for 2017, with the Ohio State sophomore primed for bigger and better things. But for some reason, he only picked up just over a hundred yards rushing in two games. A 56-0 blowout and a 62-14 steamrolling. Not exactly the breakout year McCall had hoped for. Now you don't want to question a young man's situation, he is only a kid, but because I've kind of followed his career (I don't know him personally), I have a few questions:
Freshman J.K. Dobbins set the field on ablaze at Ohio State, gaining over a 1,000 yards and racking up video game-like numbers. McCall ended the season fourth on the depth chart behind larger freshmen and sophomores and was fifth on the team in rushing yards (if you count QB J.T. Barrett). At what point do you ask if a transfer might be in McCall's future?
McCall would still have 2 years of eligibility left if he sat out the 2018 season and transferred to a local school, say, Kent State. But this is where motivation would come in. Does McCall bleed Scarlett and Gray? Maybe the McCalls are a proud OSU family and the value of a free Ohio State diploma is enough to to satisfy DeMario. Since I am a jaded blogger, let's label the Grateful to Have a College Diploma as the least likely scenario.
If McCall did transfer to Kent State, he would easily rack up 1,000 yard seasons. The problem is, who's the leading running back in the MAC in 2017? That would be Terry Swanson, running back from Toledo. Despite leading the MAC with 1,300 yards+ for the 2017 season as a senior, he's not listed as one of the Top 25 running backs in America by Walter Football. What do you get for being a great running back in the MAC? Cut in an NFL training camp as a free agent invitee and a ticket to the CFL. Maybe McCall just wants to get on the playing field and have his education paid for. He's Grateful to be on the Football Field.
But I don't buy that either. I think, and that's all that is, is my opinion, is someone in the McCall family thinks they have the human lottery ticket. Maybe it's Mom, maybe it's Dad, maybe it's DeMario himself, but there is something going on there.
What does Ohio State say, on the record?
“We still feel very strong about him. He’s just got to stay healthy and become a dynamic player. We’ve seen signs of it. He just needs to be more consistent. We all love him. He’s a great kid. His biggest thing is you better be lightning fast or you better be strong. To be not that, that’s where he’s working. He’s coming on, but he’s got to stay healthy."-Landof10.com
Healthy? There's that question of health again. What was that injury again? "He’s not hurt hurt...He’s just gotta get stronger, faster and stay healthy,”
Of course Ohio State loves him. Ohio State loves depth. But at this point McCall's junior and senior seasons will coincide with Dobbins' sophomore and junior seasons. Even if Dobbins leaves for the NFL early, that doesn't help McCall either, unless...
Mike Weber, the Buckeye's second leading running back, is mulling entering the NFL Draft. If he does well versus USC, he could be projected as being picked in the latter half of the first round. That projection would seal Weber's fate at Ohio State. If Weber bolts, there would be a prime spot for a second running back on the depth chart. A spot that, if filled correctly, would expedite an athletes' path into the NFL. Every other year OSU puts a running back in the NFL (2005 - Clarett; 2007 - Pittman; 2009 - Wells; 2012 - Herron; 2014 - Hyde; 2016 - Elliot; 2018 (?) - Weber).
If Weber leaves and McCall has a breakout year, it's possible that the gamble of going to a Football Factory has paid off. Playing the least amount of games to get to the NFL and Cash in that Golden Ticket. Which was probably the plan all along. Play a season or 2 for a coach that gets a half a dozen players a year to the National Football League. Statistically, playing for the Ohio State University at running back is one of the surest ways to find yourself on an NFL roster. Using statistics not for football glory, but to estimate the chances of winning the football lottery.
Which is fine. Everyone has their dreams. If the dream is to play NFL football, McCall has positioned himself well. He only has to catch lightning in a bottle for 1 season.
Or maybe, more likely, he'll find himself on the bench for the next two seasons, receiving token carries in blowout wins. If that is the endgame, someone in the family is going to be very, very peeved.
Again, I have no insights. I just think that the McCall story is one of local interest which is probably going to end in disappointment. But who knows, maybe he'll sign that first NFL contract and the goal will be reached, not playing, of course, but signing that contract. All I know is, players who can't stay "healthy" in high school and can't stay "healthy" in college, don't magically get healthy in the professional football meat grinder.