Hall’s Injury Leaves Meyer with Limited Options
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Urban Meyer took the Ohio State job, he wasn’t sure what to make of Jordan Hall.
Meyer was practically drooling over the idea of Braxton Miller running his spread attack in Columbus, and he quickly developed a man crush on senior defensive end John Simon, but Hall, well, Hall was a bit of enigma.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Jordan Hall has had a decent career,” Meyer said back in March.
“I would not say good. I watch him compete and he should be better (statistically).”
Hall would likely be significantly better in Meyer’s offense than he was in Ohio State’s more traditional power system a year ago, but it may be a while before we know for sure.
Over the weekend, the Buckeyes announced Hall would be sidelined for at least 10 weeks after cutting his foot on a piece of glass in the grass outside his Columbus residence.
Hall posted on his twitter account that he’s hoping to be ready for opening day—Sept. 1 against Miami, Ohio—but ESPN’s Joe Schad is reporting the injury is significant enough it will likely keep Hall out until at least week three of the regular season.
Fortunately for Meyer, the Buckeyes were relatively stacked with talent at the tailback position when he took over the team, but Hall’s injury leaves Ohio State’s first-year head coach without an important cog in his explosive offense.
“Jordan Hall gives us flexibility,” Meyer said after the Spring Game back in April.
“I can see him moving out and playing some H as well. He's the No. 1 candidate to fill that hybrid position that Percy Harvin made famous.”
Hall is obviously a much different player than Harvin, who is now a starting wide receiver in the NFL, but, like Harvin, he gave Meyer the type of versatile player opposing defenses have to account for on every play.
“He's faster than a linebacker and he's quicker in the open space,” said Ken Pryor, an offensive assistant at North Point High School in Maryland.
“He's a real live weapon that Ohio State is now facing the early part of the season without.”
The bad news is, the Buckeyes don’t have a lot of weapons right now. It’s not that the cupboards are particularly bare in Columbus, but Ohio State is lacking an established playmaker on offense.
About the closest guy to that was tight end Jake Stoneburner, and he is currently suspended indefinitely from the team for his off-the-field incident earlier this summer.
Before spring ball, Meyer wasn’t even certain who would carry the ball in his offense, and afterward, he seemed less than impressed with the performance of the wide receiver group as a whole .
“It's probably the most unprepared group I've ever dealt with as far as practice,” Meyer said.
“(We) have to get our passing game in order for August. That's a tall task, because it's not very good right now.”
A critical part of Meyer’s passing attack—and his running game for that matter—is the ‘Pivot’ role which was played by Harvin at Florida. It’s the role Hall was going to be in before the foot injury.
“The pivot route is a really nice route,” said Pryor, who contributes regularly to The-Ozone with his Understanding Urban series.
“It’s an option route that gives the receiver a couple choices based on his reading the outside linebacker. In the ‘Follow Pivot’ pass play I wrote about, the pivot route is really secondary.”
According to Pryor, the pivot man forces the linebacker to chase him outside, opening a big window for the quarterback to hit the ‘follow’ route. That role will be played by someone like Devin Smith, who became a favorite target for Miller this spring.
But who is going to replace Hall as the hybrid role Meyer spoke of?
Photo by Jim Davidson
*WR Corey Brown (6-0, 186, Jr.)
Brown is a former high school running back with legitimate track speed. His only real issue at Ohio State—other than staying healthy—has been holding on to the football. He could be very effective running with the ball after the catch, or out of the backfield, but he has to catch it first. This might be a different way to get the ball in his hands, but Meyer would then need to find other guys who can stretch the field vertically.
Pryor: “He’s going to be on the field, but the thinking was that he will probably be out there but running the follow route or the deep post.”
*WR Michael Thomas (6-2, 193)
Thomas exploded onto the scene in the spring with a 12-catch performance in the spring game. He’s big, he’s fast, he has good hands and he’s already developing an excellent relationship with quarterback Braxton Miller. A year advanced, physically, after spending a season at military school.
Pryor: :I could see Thomas running the pivot while Brown and Devin Smith run the deeper routes (post and follow). Thomas was killing'em on this kind of out route in the spring game. He may actually be my No. 1 choice, if he isn’t designated for something deep.”
*WR Verlon Reed (6-1, 200, rSo.)
We won’t know exactly how healthy Reed is until the start of fall camp, but indications are he could be close to full-go by August. We don’t know how much the knee injury will impact his explosiveness, but Reed was a dangerous runner in high school. He is still learning the receiver position, but could thrive in a more intensive role with the offense.
Pryor: “Possible candidate for the role, but he had a case of the dropsies against Miami last year. But the pivot route is a good route for him. He is the kind of guy who could be effective after the catch on this route.”
*RB Bri’onte Dunn (6-1, 214, Fr.)
A freshman tailback from Canton Glenoak, Dunn enrolled early and participated in spring ball with the Buckeyes. He showed glimpses of explosiveness as a guy who could possibly handle this role in the future, if need be.
Pryor: “He's a freshman tailback, but he has demonstrated an ability to catch the ball. Could be the guy to slide down to the pivot when Ohio State goes to an empty set.”
Photo by Dan Harker
*WR Chris Fields (6-0, 197, Jr.)
Fields started out as the top slot receiver in the spring, but he ended up spending the bulk of his time working with the second group. He hasn’t shown the ability to make plays down the field, but could be versatile in this type of role.
Pryor: “Not sure Urban Meyer likes him, but I do. He makes plays and catches when given the opportunity. Might not be the best blocker or route runner but the pivot route would be a good way for him to get on the field and produce while not being tasked to do anything outside his abilities.”
*WR Ricquan Southward (6-2, 190, Fr.)
One of the biggest mysteries in the class of 2012 is Southward, simply because most Ohio State fans don’t know much about him. He has good size and good speed, but he’s raw, and he needs to develop his body. Right now he is too thin to take many hits at this level.
Pryor: “He hasn't suited up for the Buckeyes yet, but his high school film is lovely. He catches everything and he's a smooth on sprinter. Reminds me of cross between Mike Jenkins and Santonio Holmes. If he can pick up the scheme in limited time, he might be a prime candidate. This is a good route to get a newby's feet wet.”
*RB Warren Ball (6-2, 200, Fr.)
Another back in the class of 2012, Ball enrolled this summer and will take part in his first practices this fall. He already has the body of a college running back, and has shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Pryor: “I don't see this one. Too many other potential candidates. He's a freshman, and doesn't know the scheme. Good receiver, but he is the greenest of the greenhorns.”
*2 Rod Smith (6-3, 230, So.)
A potential transfer candidate during the winter, Smith stuck it out with the Buckeyes, and they may need him now that Hall is out for some length of time. Not sure he quite fits the idea for this pivot role, however. Will probably benefit more getting carries out of the backfield.
Pryor: “Can Rod catch the ball as well as Bri’onte? He seems built more for actually toting the rock vs. receiving it. I think the list of guys who would get the nod is lengthy before we get to Rod.”
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