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Ohio State's Master Teague says he's healed from Achilles' injury, ready for big season

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State running back Master Teague III, shown scoring on a run against Miami University last season, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury suffered in spring practice in March. [Eric Albrecht/DIspatch]

When spring football practice started, Master Teague III was determined to show he was ready to step into the big shoes required for an Ohio State running back.

He had made third-team All-Big Ten as J.K. Dobbins’ backup last year, but Teague’s 2019 season didn’t end the way he wanted. After Dobbins became hobbled against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal, Teague gained only 9 yards on seven carries as the Buckeyes’ run game sputtered in the second half of that crushing loss.

Then Teague’s spring practice ended almost as soon as it began when he sustained an Achilles tendon injury. Such injuries can be devastating, particularly for a running back. Teague, however, appears to have made a speedy recovery.

The Buckeyes don’t open their belated Big Ten-only season until Oct. 24, but Teague believes he’d have been ready if the season hadn’t been delayed. He now views the injury as a blessing in disguise.

“It was definitely just another chance for me to grow as a person, as a man, as a player, and continue to build discipline in my life to help me with certain things down the road,” Teague said.

Teague is deeply religious, and he believes his injury happened for a reason, even if the third-year sophomore couldn’t comprehend that when it happened.

“I was in shock at the time,” he said.

Teague was diligent with his rehab. When COVID-19 hit and almost every other Buckeye went home in the spring, Teague stayed in his apartment and rehabbed on his own with guidance from the OSU medical team.

“He's so into his faith and never wavered in his belief system that he'd be fine and be back,” Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said. “And just the way he attacked it, he never complained. Whatever he could do, plus some, was his attitude. It doesn't shock me. Master is the type of young guy that he will completely immerse himself into whatever he's doing.”

In addition to rehabbing his Achilles, Teague worked to improve his agility. At 5 feet 11 and 225 pounds, Teague has the size to break tackles and the speed to outrun defenders. But he wants to show more elusiveness.

“That was one of the things that I felt I was missing a little bit last year,” Teague said.

He had been injured before last season and didn’t get to work on his balance and footwork as much as he liked, he said. Even so, Teague averaged 5.8 yards per carry in running for 789 yards and four touchdowns last year, including 100-yard games against Indiana and Maryland.

But that Clemson game was a sore spot.

“That definitely wasn't a performance that I want to have,” he said. “You hate to go through something and have to learn from it. You'd like to learn first and then go from there. But it's definitely something that I've thought about. I want to make sure that I can make big plays in the heated games, the big games, that I can contribute and make a difference.”

Teague won’t have to shoulder the whole load this year. After Teague was injured, Trey Sermon decided to come to Ohio State as a graduate transfer from Oklahoma.

Alford said he has a pretty good idea how the playing time will be shared but wasn’t ready to divulge it. He said that whoever shows the most consistency will get the bulk of the snaps.

Teague wants to show that the promise he showed last year was only a glimpse of what he can be.

“I wasn't my full self as a running back even though I did decent,” he said. “But (after) this injury, I feel like I've been able to just rebuild myself in a different way. I think it's going to work out great for me this year.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch