In 2018, Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland injured his Achilles’ tendon during spring football practice. In 2019, linebacker Justin Hilliard did the same thing.
Now it looks as if another OSU player has suffered a similar injury. Ohio State would not confirm that running back Master Teague III injured his Achilles during Monday’s first spring practice, but sources indicated to The Dispatch that he had. The football program’s policy is not to detail injuries, citing privacy concerns. OSU did announce that Teague would miss the rest of spring practice.
If it is an Achilles injury, Teague will face a long rehab that could cause him to miss at least the start of the 2020 season.
“It’s tough, but if you’re going to tear an Achilles, this is the best place to do it,” Hilliard said Wednesday. “I’m not going to speak on Master’s injury. I honestly don’t know anything about his injury specifically, but just speaking off my experience and Tuf’s experience, we both made it back by week 2 of the season.”
Hilliard and Borland described rehab from an Achilles injury as arduous.
“An Achilles is probably the hardest thing you could ever go through,” Borland said. “If you can get through that, you can get through anything. We’re all there for Master, whatever it is. We support him and we’ll be there for him.”
Borland said the most difficult part of rehab might have been the patience it requires.
“It’s the consistency it demands,” he said. “Sometimes it can seem like a really slow process, but it’s the small victories that add up, and eventually you see the progress.”
Hilliard said the first month was particularly hard, “just realizing you’re not going to be out there for a little bit,” he said.
“It's a hard rehab because you’re literally reconstructing that whole tendon and that whole calf muscle.”
Teague was expected to take over for 2,000-yard rusher J.K. Dobbins as the starting running back. The sophomore from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, ran for 789 yards as Dobbins’ backup in 2019 and earned third-team all-Big Ten honors.
Ohio State doesn’t have much depth behind him. Sophomore Marcus Crowley, who was third string last year, is recovering from a knee injury and listed as “unavailable” on the team’s status report.
That leaves redshirt freshman Steele Chambers as the only scholarship running back for spring practice. Senior Demario McCall, who has bounced between running back and slot receiver in his career, also could see time in the backfield.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Wednesday that senior walk-on Mitch Rossi and junior walk-on Xavier Johnson could see more repetitions to keep Chambers from having to shoulder too much of the load.
In keeping with team policy, Wilson chose his words carefully when asked about Teague’s injury.
Asked if he knew of a timetable for Teague’s return, Wilson said, “No one does.”
He added, “By the end of the summer, (he) should be good. It’s early. We’ll see.”
Wilson said it will be important for Teague to find ways to improve during his rehab.
“You want to get healthy, but you (also) want to get better,” Wilson said. “You want to become a better ball-carrier without running the ball. You want to catch the ball better without running routes. How do you cheat the system so that you’re growing mentally and growing with the skills you can do?”
Like Hilliard and Borland before him, that’s all Teague can do.
“I can barely put it into words,” Borland said of the Buckeyes having three similar spring injuries in as many years. “It’s crazy.”