Olave, McCall catch opportunity, run with it

Tim May
Freshman receiver Chris Olave had big touchdown catches in wins over Michigan and Northwestern in the last two games. [Jonathan Quilter]

At Ohio State, usually it’s just a matter of time before football players earn a shot to show what they can do.

For receiver Chris Olave, two-thirds of the way through his freshman season is when his number was called, and he delivered with touchdowns in wins over Michigan and Northwestern. For third-year sophomore Demario McCall, it was more than halfway through his college career when he made game-changing plays against Maryland, with a kickoff return, and Michigan with a memorable reception.

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To seize the opportunity is “everything,” senior hybrid back Parris Campbell said.

“Especially for a guy like Demario, who maybe has been told in the past he’s going to get a chance to contribute,” he said. “Then, obviously, when he got those chances in a game, he took advantage of them. That’s huge for his confidence going into next year, going into the offseason, because they know what he can do in a big-time game in big-time situations.”

They also were two of the reasons that the offense, under the direction of record-setting quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., kept expanding through the year, with more possibilities for the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 against Washington.

Olave, for example, shook off the freshman cocoon and showed the skills that had impressed incoming coach Ryan Day when he recruited Olave out of San Marcos, California. Olave was a relative unknown because he had to sit out his junior season because of transfer rules before erupting onto the scene for Mission Hills High School.

“You go back and you look at last year, guys like Chris Olave maybe weren’t the highest-recruited guys in the world, but he comes in and has a major impact this season,” Day said this week of the importance of evaluating players, no matter their ranking by recruiting services.

McCall was a better-known, four-star performer out of North Ridgeville. But transferring that promise to the college playing field took time for two reasons: He had to wait his turn, and he had to become a more consistent performer in practice.

“It’s always tough sitting,” McCall said. “When something’s not going your way you have to overcome adversity. Life is like a roller coaster, they always say. Once I overcame adversity, it was just waiting my turn.”

What he brings to the table is obvious, especially to him.

“Speed,” McCall said. “Just me, by being an athlete, I can do multiple stuff: running back, receiver, returner.”

And resilience. After he muffed a kickoff against Michigan just before halftime and it allowed the Wolverines to pull within two points, senior captains Isaiah Prince and Terry McLaurin were among those who told him to shake it off.

“They believed in me,” McCall said. “I appreciate those guys for really having my back. They ride, and I rode it.”

Campbell believes the ride has only just begun for McCall and Olave as he looked toward 2019.

“You have guys like Demario McCall who doesn’t know if he’s going to play running back, doesn’t know if he’s going to play receiver, but he will be on the field making plays, for sure,” Campbell said. And Olave, “He has the ability to show open-field speed because, I mean, he just catches touchdowns. Chris is an explosive guy, and when he has that main role in the offense everyone will see it.”


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