The race to be J.K. Dobbins’ backup at running back for Ohio State this fall is not over, but it appears to have a leader.
Coach Ryan Day said junior Demario McCall “maybe has a leg up” on redshirt freshman Master Teague and true freshmen Steele Chambers and Marcus Crowley less than two weeks before the season-opening game against Florida Atlantic.
“But they'll continue to work today,” he added. “I thought Demario ran better today. Overall he's doing a good job.”
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound McCall has flashed tantalizing ability since arriving from North Ridgeville, Ohio, four years ago, but he has had a hard time turning that into production, in part because of injuries.
He has also spent time at slot receiver and became a receiving threat out of the backfield late last season, a role he could reprise this year depending on how the race to backup Dobbins shakes out.
Teague (5-11, 220), Chambers (6-2, 215) and Crowley (6-1, 205) are all bigger backs in the more traditional mold for Ohio State, but Day has stressed the most reliable runner will back up Dobbins, who is hoping to add a third 1,000-yard rushing season in as many tries to his resume.
Teague was considered the favorite to be the No. 2 back, but an unidentified injury has slowed him in the preseason.
“Demario has had a good camp,” Day said. “He's done some really good things. I think he can really be a weapon for us. Master has practiced a couple days. When he has, he's looked good. He's been limited all camp, which is hard. I know frustrating for him. Then the two freshmen have been running hard.”
All of the candidates could get looks in games in the early part of the season, especially with the one-year-old NCAA rule allowing players to participate in up to four games without losing a year of eligibility, something Teague did last season.