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Former Running Back, Receiver Demario McCall Ready To Make Impact In Ohio State Secondary

McCall comfortable and confident at cornerback after years of splitting time between running back and wide receiver.

Sixth-year senior Demario McCall scored two touchdowns in his first game in an Ohio State uniform, a blowout win over Bowling Green in the 2016 season opener.

The fact that one score came through the air and the other on the ground was especially notable, given the 5-foot-9 and 191-pounder has spent the five years since switching between running back and wide receiver as the Buckeyes attempted to best utilize his talents.

The constant back and forth hurt McCall’s production, as he seemingly went from breakout freshman to an afterthought within the Ohio State offense. In fact, he finished last year’s pandemic-shortened season with just one rush for 12 yards and one catch for 27 yards with zero touchdowns.

The Buckeyes added more talent to the running back and wide receiver rooms this offseason in the form of several highly touted freshmen, so sensing his opportunity slipping away, McCall approached head coach Ryan Day and defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs about a move to cornerback.

“It was actually my idea,” McCall said during his media availability on Friday afternoon. “I felt like my last go-around, I wanted to try something different, go for it and give it my all. That’s exactly what I’m doing.

“I’ll do whatever the team needs. I’ll do it. Just go get it and do it to the best of my abilities.”

Demario McCall

McCall, who played on both sides of the ball during his high school days in North Ridgeville, Ohio, spent all spring at cornerback and played well in the annual spring game. And rather than enter the transfer portal in hopes of making an impact elsewhere, he chose to stay in Columbus to see both his career and the position change through.

“It wasn’t new to me, it was just remembering,” McCall said, though he acknowledged the talent level of the players he has to cover in practice is much higher than what he previously dealt with. “I feel like I belong there, for sure. It’s mostly about listening to the coaches, get the techniques and then go play football.

“A lot of people who would have been in my shoes right now would have transferred or would have left. That’s the easy way. I just feel like me being me and coming where I come from, the transition from receiver to corner was easy. It wasn’t a hard choice for me to make at all. I knew I wanted to stick around. It was more a question of how would I handle the situation. I like to compete, so I wanted to do something that would make me compete even more and do something new.”

McCall believes that has an advantage over other cornerbacks on the roster due to the time he spent at running back and wide receiver early in his career, as it lets him into the mind of his opponent. Coombs agrees with that assessment, but also noted how coachable McCall been since making the move.

“He’s a piece of clay,” Coombs said. “He just does everything the way we tell him to do it because he’s never done it before, whereas other guys do things the way they want to do because they’ve done it before. Not Demario. He’s doing things exactly the way (we tell him) because he doesn’t know any better.

“You love that about Demario. He’s high energy, he’s quick twitch. I’m excited to watch him play. He gets out there and he’s a rep eater. He shows up every day, he eats a bunch of reps and he’s competing. There has been more than one occasion in the meeting room where (secondary coach) Matt (Barnes) points out, ‘This is the best technique we’ve had thus far,’ and it’s Demario. It’s fantastic.”

Demario McCall

Senior Sevyn Banks has one of Ohio State’s cornerback spots locked down, which leaves McCall fighting for playing time with returning senior Marcus Williamson, junior Cameron Brown, redshirt freshmen Ryan Watts and Lejond Cavazos and true freshmen Jordan Hancock, Jakailin Johnson and Denzel Burke.

But based upon what he showed in the spring and how Coombs and his peers raved about him on Friday, it seems like McCall has finally found a home in the Buckeyes’ secondary.

“We have a month (before the first game), but he’s going to play,” Coombs said of McCall. “That’s the great thing about where we are right now. We have guys competing, guys that are going to play and guys that are confidence givers right now. I love that. You feel confident that when they go out on the field that you can call what you want and go play ball.”


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