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Football: Three offensive players needing breakout spring game

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Ohio State sophomore running back Demario McCall practices running back drills during spring practice on March 21 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports Editor

The annual Ohio State LiFE Sports Spring Game is really nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. But to some players, it can lead to playing time on the field and is an opportunity to make one final impression on the coaches before fall camp in August.

Even for players who have seen substantial playing time, the spring game can be an invaluable commodity.

Here are three players who could most benefit from a standout performance in the spring game.

Demario McCall

Once thought of as the immediate replacement to former H-back Curtis Samuel, sophomore running back Demario McCall is stuck in the backfield working with the running backs with the possibility of earning reps at wide receiver in August.

McCall came onto the field late in games last season when the score was out of reach, showing off his top-class speed. Now in his second year, McCall is looking for any way to get onto the field in meaningful situations.

“To be honest, just be ready when your number is called,” McCall said. “(We) call it competitive excellence, so whenever they tell me to go out there in the slot, I’m going to go out in the slot and do what I do.”

His speed gives OSU coach Urban Meyer a reason to keep him on the field, but running backs coach Tony Alford said McCall’s physical strength at 170 pounds didn’t allow for him to see more time. Now up to 190 pounds, expect McCall — who’s sitting at No. 3 on the running back depth chart — to be on the field for nearly the entire intrasquad scrimmage come Saturday.

Isaiah Prince

Junior right tackle Isaiah Prince is one of four returning starters on the offensive line, but has as much work as anyone in the unit after last season’s shortcomings.

The offensive line struggled to protect redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett last year against top-tier competition — most notably against Penn State, Michigan and Clemson where the opposition racked up 17 sacks and 35 tackles for loss. Much of that struggle was on the right side of the line as defenses keyed in on Prince.

Moving to his second season as a starter, Prince’s development from 2016 could arguably be the most important contributor to the offense’s success in 2017.

“(Prince is) having a great spring right now. He’s battling his tail off, we all are,” said senior left tackle Jamarco Jones. “We’re just trying to get better and improve so the mistakes that happened last year don’t happen again this year.”

Heading into the spring game, Prince pretty much has the right tackle spot locked up. But confidence in his game can start with a dominant spring game.

A.J. Alexander

While redshirt senior tight end Marcus Baugh watches from the sideline Saturday as he recovers from an offseason shoulder surgery, redshirt sophomore tight end A.J. Alexander will try to solidify his spot as the No. 1 at the position.

Alexander played in all 13 games a season ago, catching only four passes for 27 yards, but word out of spring camp is the 6-foot-2, 250-pound tight end is pushing for the starting job with Baugh on the sidelines.

“Tight end is the most improved position on the team right now. A.J. Alexander is really coming on,” Meyer said one week ago.

The OSU offense has not utilized the tight end as anything other than another blocker, but if Alexander shows improvement in a game scenario, Baugh and Alexander could be two more weapons in Meyer’s arsenal.

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