Spring Practice Insider: Jordan Hall Returns in Big Way
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jordan Hall hasn't seen the field for the Buckeyes since the September 29 trip to East Lansing last season. Having been granted a medical redshirt due to injury, Hall has been given another chance to make his mark, and if the Buckeyes' first spring practice was any indication, then 2013 could be pretty special for Hall.
Hall, who has moved fully to the H-back position in the slot, worked exclusively with the receivers in drills, and was fantastic while doing so. He snatched the ball out of the air, quickly tucked it, and went immediately upfield. He seems to have picked up the position about as well as could be hoped.
Now before we go overboard, let's remember that this was just one practice. However, there was no denying that he was the most explosive, dynamic and consistent player on offense for the Buckeyes.
Watching the one-on-ones, he was truly abusing some of the defensive backs who were matched up against him. He beat safety Ron Tanner by six yards on a double move that turned into a corner route.
Remember every quick twitch or jump cut that you've seen from Hall when he carries the ball? He's taken that quickness to route running, and he was effective today.
Of course, this was a practice that featured passing, so it follows that the receivers would make the most noise. But none of the caveats stopped Urban Meyer from raving about him, saying "Boy, was he great today." He also said that he had no idea that Hall would be this good at catching the ball already.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this passing game is currently occurring with no defensive line, so a lot of these short passes over the middle are going to be much more difficult to complete once you have defensive linemen trying to knock them down at the line of scrimmage.
But it wasn't just short passes that Hall was catching, because he also made the play of the day by catching a 40-odd yard pass down the seam, going up with Christian Bryant and coming down with the ball as he landed hard on the ground.
Passing the Test
Quarterback Braxton Miller threw the ball well, especially considering that this was just the first practice. Meyer made a point to say afterward that Miller had a "heck of a day", and noted that his footwork was solid as well.
Cardale Jones was able to get quite a few reps today, and he certainly has a strong arm. He did, however, throw a couple of bad interceptions.
Freshman J.T. Barrett, who tore his ACL in the fifth game of his senior season last year participated in every quarterback drill, but sat out the 7-on-7 portions of the practice. He looked very comfortable and he moved well. He played without a knee brace, which is a very good sign. Meyer said they were simply being cautious with him right now. He also called him a "great kid" who "does everything right".
New Look Devin
Receiver Devin Smith is sporting a new jersey number (9), but his newest look is actually the way he was used on Tuesday. Known for his long receptions, Smith was actually working quite a bit on the underneath routes, and Braxton Miller was finding him.
Smith was running various drag routes, and was also used as an outlet in the flats. He was far removed from the guy who was known for his streak routes last year.
However, how much of today's usage was due to Philly Brown's absence? Were those routes that would normally be run by Brown? They were last year. Even if that isn't going to be Smith's role this coming season, he still looked quite comfortable with it on Tuesday.
Special Teams Notes
* Urban Meyer, Kerry Coombs and Mike Vrabel were all working with the gunners in the punting game together. They were working on blocking and getting off of blocks. Hard to imagine three more intense individuals to learn from. When you have those three yelling your name, who do you turn to first?
* Meyer said that Drew Basil, fundamentally, may have been the best punter on the team last year. He seems confident that he will be able to perform, but he'll need to become more consistent. Frank Epitropoulos also got some punts in, but he still has work to do. Also punting were Kyle Clinton and Jake Russell.
* The punt returners were Philly Brown, Bradley Roby, Jordan Hall and Chris Fields. I would expect Brown and Hall to be the top two when September rolls around.
Depth Charting the Offense
H-BACK (SLOT WR)
Emptying the Notebook
* Corey "Philly" Brown was out with a bit of a sprained knee, but Meyer expects him back for Thursday's practice.
* Taylor Decker and Chase Farris split duties with the first team at right tackle, though Decker was out there first. Farris fared pretty well against first-team LEO Noah Spence. Given that Farris was one of the top eight linemen last season when he played right guard, and he is now currently working at tackle, he could be the first lineman off the bench in any situation not involving the center position. And if he wins the job outright, if there is an injury to another player, he would still be able to slide inside if need be.
* For the most part Decker was impressive and looked comfortable and athletic. Jack Mewhort looked terrific. He moves so well for a guy his size.
* Jeff Heuerman had a nice one-handed catch down the middle of the field off of a tipped ball. He showed tremendous concentration and caught a ball that probably shouldn't have been thrown.
* It wasn't easy to get a good read on the running backs given that they aren't being tackled. Everybody looked as shifty as you would like. Carlos Hyde showed nice acceleration running wide.
* Epitropoulos did not have the best day when it came to pass catching. He dropped several throws. Evan Spencer also had a few drops.
* Mike Thomas made several nice catches where he had to go up and get the football. He showed good body control in the process. Chris Fields also made some nice catches, but there is a noticeable difference between him and Jordan Hall when they turn the ball upfield.
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