Hall Cleared. Can He Shake Rust?
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With all the bad news piling up for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes on the injury front early in the season, Ohio State finally got some good news this week.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Senior tailback Jordan Hall has been medically cleared to return to full-time practice for the Buckeyes this week after missing the first two weeks of the season with a foot injury. Hall had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his foot, near the base of his big toe back in June, but could be available for Ohio State as early as this weekend against the University of California.
“There’s a chance that he could play this week,” OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton said before practice on Monday.
“It’s a day-by-day thing and he’s right at the end of his timeline as far as his rehab off that toe (injury). But we have to go based on how he feels on a day-to-day basis. So, we’ll see.”
Slated to be Ohio State’s starting tailback this season, Hall has been sidelined since late June, when he cut his foot on a piece of glass while taking his dog for a walk outside his Columbus apartment.
He did not participate in fall practice with the Buckeyes, instead being limited by a non-weight bearing boot on his right foot, but Hall could be thrust into action against Cal this week by the knee injury to junior tailback Carlos Hyde.
“He's going to run today, and I'll know more,” Meyer said during his weekly press luncheon on Monday afternoon.
“He was out there working a little bit yesterday, so there's a chance.”
The Buckeyes typically do a light practice on Sunday, as most guys are still sore from the previous day’s game. One player who was a little more sore than the rest on Sunday was Hyde, who left with a knee injury in the first half of Ohio State’s win over UCF.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It's an MCL sprain. It actually did not swell, which I guess – I know things, because I've dealt with so many MCLs,” Meyer said Monday.
“He's a tough guy, so I don't – it's fairly positive, as you can be, for a serious MCL sprain.”
Drayton said Hyde has a very “high tolerance for pain” and would still suit up and carry the football this week against the Golden Bears, if the staff would let him.
“If you talk to him right now, in his mind, he’s ready to go,” Drayton said.
“But we’ve got to be smart and we’re going to listen to the doctors and we’re going to do what’s best for him in the long run.”
Meyer already said Hyde won’t be available this week. They’re hoping to have him back next week against UAB, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them hold him out until the Big Ten opener at Michigan State on Sept. 29.
That could depend on the status of Hall, who will be asked to jump right into the flow of things in a complicated offense, despite the fact he hasn’t practiced with this group since the end of the spring ball.
“He has not had contact, so we have to see how his body reacts to contact a little bit,” Drayton said of Hall, who also missed Ohio State’s spring game with an unrelated foot injury.
“He’ll have to get the timing back and the timing down because this is an offense based on timing. He’s got to get in there with the quarterbacks and put in some extra work and things of that sort.”
Hall was considered to be Ohio State’s top playmaker outside of quarterback Braxton Miller in the spring, but if he’s not 100-percent ready to be his normal explosive self, the Buckeyes will have to work with their other options this week.
That includes freshman Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt sophomore Rod Smith, but neither of them did much to impress Meyer and his assistant coaches after Hyde left the game with an injury in the second quarter.
“Their performance last week was not very good,” Drayton acknowledged.
“However, we wipe the slate clean every week and they’ve got to have an unbelievable week of practice this week to earn their time on the field. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of attitude and what kind of approach they have (Tuesday) in practice.”
The Buckeyes also won’t be afraid to get fullback Zach Boren more involved in the running game as ball-carrier this week, especially in short-yardage situations, but they may have to look outside the box if Hall isn’t ready to go by Saturday.
“The beauty of this offense is we can kind of systematically put people in place to make plays for us,” Drayton said.
Corey "Philly" Brown
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Philly Brown is a guy who right now is probably the most-productive offensive player that we have. When things were getting a little out of kilter (against UCF), we were able to find spots for him to be able to make plays for us – both as a receiver and out of the backfield for us.”
Drayton stressed that Brown, who leads the Buckeyes with 13 catches for 135 yards this season, is still a wide receiver who needs to focus on making plays on the outside. He may be asked to do some different things, like carry the football the way he did on his 19-yard reverse against UCF, but they really need Dunn or Smith to emerge as a viable option during this week’s practice.
“It's one thing getting your mind right to go to be a backup for third‑string tailback for a game. It's another thing getting your mind right to be the guy that's going to jog out there with the first offense,” Meyer said of his No. 3 and No. 4 tailback coming out of the spring.
“There's no just go play. He's got Tuesday, and Wednesday is going to be very critical – whoever has the best Tuesday and Wednesday is going to line up at tailback.”
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