COLUMBUS â€” Master Teague took a step forward in his Ohio State progression last season.
As a redshirt freshman, Teague finished seventh in the Big Ten in rushing and was the primary backup behind superstar back J.K. Dobbins. Teague was impressive in his second year. He grabbed the reigns of a wide-open backup tailback competition and carved out a role in the offense.
Teague was able to rack up plenty of rushing yards against the weaker competition on the Buckeyes schedule a season ago, but he ran into trouble against the better defenses Ohio State faced. That can’t be an issue for Teague if he’s going to be the full-time starting back beside Justin Fields.
The good news for Teague can be found when the film starts rolling. Teague’s bruising style made him a good change of pace from Dobbins. But he did his most damage with his subtle home-run ability, something that can translate into this year, so long as he’s back and healthy from his torn Achilles suffered in March.
â€œObviously in the running back room, those guys will be pretty green,â€ Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. â€œMaster played some this year, but weâ€™re going to have to replace J.K. [Dobbins]. Itâ€™s hard with Master because he came into some of those games late in the games and really was a great change of pace. He was downhill. He got through it. And he got to the next level and rolled.
“But what really didnâ€™t happen for Master this year is in big moments early in the game or â€” he didnâ€™t get a ton of those carries. J.K. got the meat of those carries. So thatâ€™s the next step for Master is now taking on that responsibility and knowing what heâ€™s doing and having some confidence in that, because he does have the ability.â€
Teague won’t have any of the summer to work out and become a more complete back. He could miss fall camp, too. He might not even be ready for the season opener. But once he gets on the field, he has the ability to change a game for the Buckeyes.
Teague announced his arrival onto the Ohio State scene with a 100-yard game against Indiana early in the season. He had another 100-yard game and topped 90 yards in three others, all while playing behind the 2,000-yard Dobbins. But many of Teague’s best games came against the worst of the Buckeyes schedule.
In the Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, Teague had seven carries for just nine yards, replacing the injured Dobbins in the second half. The next step for Teague is to take what he showed against Indiana and the 73-yard run against Northwestern and make those kind of plays against Michigan, Penn State and other tough teams on the Ohio State schedule this season.
That all starts with his health, though.
â€œFrom all indications, [Crowley and Teague are] both doing well in rehab,â€ Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford said. â€œTheyâ€™re attacking this thing the way we want them to and the way weâ€™d expect them to.â€
If Teague’s rehab is coming along as expected, he could be ready for the season. Does that mean he’ll be given the starting job right away? No, because the Buckeyes have veteran graduate transfer back Trey Sermon in from Oklahoma and plenty of other young talents ready to take their own step forward.
But if he’s healthy, Master Teague can take a step forward for the Buckeyes, possibly going from the occasional long touchdown run to dominant every-down back in the Ohio State offense.