Head coach Ryan Day said the Ohio State running back room may be one injury away from “a little bit of a crisis” Monday.
That crisis might have come even earlier than he expected, as redshirt sophomore running back and odds-on favorite for the vacant starting job Master Teague was ruled unavailable for the remainder of spring practice Tuesday following an injury in Ohio State’s first practice Monday, an Ohio State spokesperson confirmed to The Lantern.
With single-season rushing record holder J.K. Dobbins leaving Ohio State for the NFL, the Buckeyes’ running back situation was already on relatively uneven footing, but Teague’s team second-best 789 rushing yards in 2019 figured to provide some stability with proven in-game production heading into 2020.
Teague’s grasp on the top of the depth chart was made even more stronger due to the continued unavailability of sophomore running back Marcus Crowley, who was injured after playing seven games in the 2019 season and has yet to return.
Crowley’s 237 rushing yards were third-most among Buckeye running backs, and he did it on an impressive 9.5 yards per carry. Day said the team expects to have Crowley back before the start of the new season.
One candidate that figured into the battle for the backup spot a season ago was redshirt senior Demario McCall, the former No. 3 overall high school prospect in Ohio.
But McCall received just 18 carries for 122 rushing yards in 2019, and was listed as a wide receiver on Ohio State’s first spring practice roster Monday. Still, Day said that doesn’t mean McCall won’t receive handoffs, and given Teague’s injury, a return to the position may be more imminent now than it was a day ago.
“This spring he’s going to play some running back,” Day said. “He’s going to line up at slot and do both of those things.”
Ohio State has just one running back signee in the class of 2020, three-star prospect Miyan Williams out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Williams was not among the Buckeyes’ 14 mid-year enrollee freshmen, but he’ll likely figure more prominently in the running back discussion until more is known about the severity of Teague’s injury.
Sophomore Steele Chambers is Ohio State’s only remaining running back on scholarship. Chambers was a four-star prospect out of Georgia, and ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries this past season.