Anxious Hall Getting Closer to Return
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS — Jordan Hall will take a big step Wednesday, his first without a protective boot since injuring his toe early last month.
The senior running back has been sidelined ever since he stepped on a piece of glass while letting his dog out to use the bathroom back in July, but Hall is moving closer to being back on the practice field for the Buckeyes.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I get the boot off tomorrow,” he said after practice Tuesday.
“I’m hoping I can start running and jogging and get back as soon as possible. I want to play in the second game so I can get going for Cal and the start of the Big Ten.”
All indications are that Hall will be back on the field in week two against Central Florida, or at least he will be available according to what Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton is hearing from the training staff.
“To my knowledge, we’re still on track for that,” Drayton said last week.
“Jordan really proved himself in the spring, so we’re just trying to get him back. There wasn’t a whole lot he had to come out here this fall camp to prove. He’s going to be an integral part to this offense.”
So integral that his head coach has a timeline in his head – and probably on paper knowing Urban Meyer – of when No. 7 will back on the field, and in the lineup for the Buckeyes.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Meyer isn’t letting on to exactly when he is hoping to have Hall at his disposal offensively, but there’s no question the Buckeyes are missing what he can bring to the offense, especially at Meyer’s hybrid No. 3 position in the pivot role.
“He’s so versatile,” Drayton said of Hall, who was recently voted as one of Ohio State’s five team captains for the 2012 season.
“He’s a physical ball-carrier and he’s got great hands. He’s a very smart football player who can make a midstream adjustment on the run. We miss that. He’s a veteran who understands offensive play.”
If the Buckeyes were opening the season against a team like Alabama, the way their archrivals are, Drayton and Meyer might have little more panic in their voices as they scrambled to replace what Hall can bring to the offense.
Instead, they’ve use this opportunity to find out what other guys are capable of doing in this new system.
“If you were in the mindset of playing Miami every day, we would miss him a lot,” Drayton added.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“But we’re in the mindset of getting game ready, and it actually allows a younger guy to get in there get those reps and improve his game.”
No one has really been able to fill that hybrid spot the way Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman were hoping Hall would be able to do this fall. They have a few options, but none of them brings the ability to catch the ball consistently and run between the tackles the way Meyer has designs for the position.
“Did you see anybody out there today,” Drayton said sarcastically with an all-too-close hint of reality.
“We’re going to have to pull from some other spots right now. We’re asking some things from Philly (Brown) and Devin Smith. Jake (Stoneburner) can bring something’s to the table. It’s a collective effort, where as if you had Jordan Hall you could hone in Jordan Hall as being that guy.”
With Hall out for all of fall camp, junior tailback Carlos Hyde has emerged as ‘that guy’ in the backfield. He isn’t suited for the hybrid spot – although he does possess tremendous vertical speed for a 235-pound back – but Hyde has established himself as the No. 1 tailback at Ohio State this fall.
Now Drayton is hoping to find someone who can handle the rock behind Hyde while they anxiously await Hall’s return.
“Bri’onte Dunn has had a good, physical camp,” Drayton said of the freshman out of Canton GlenOak.
“With the ball in his hands, he’s really good. It's just the other stuff he needs to get honed in, with protections, that’s always going to take a little bit longer with a back.”
The same goes for Warren Ball, another true freshman, and also for Rod Smith, a redshirt sophomore who is still picking up Meyer’s new scheme on offense.
“Warren Ball just got off the boat,” Drayton joked of the freshman who is actually from just down the road at DeSales High School.
“He’s hearing this stuff for the first time, he’s getting a feel for the intensity for the first time, but he’s a guy that goes from point A to point B as fast as he can go.”
The offense has made big strides this fall, even without Hall in the lineup. He enjoyed watching them get the better of Ohio State’s defense during Saturday’s scrimmage at the Ackerman fields, but that doesn’t mean Hall isn’t getting a little stir crazy now that the season is rapidly approaching.
“It’s really frustrating during camp, when we are competing against the defense,” said Hall, who also missed the start of last season for much different reasons.
“I miss that, being out with the offense. I’ve been doing a lot of work over there catching balls and working on my cardio. Hopefully, I don’t miss a beat when I do come back.”
That’s exactly what Meyer is hoping as well.
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