Spring Recap: The H-Back

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2013 Spring Recap - The H-Back
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's known by many names. Before we knew what to call it, it was the "Percy Harvin role". That eventually turned into the "hybrid" spot, which became the "pivot", "slot back", and several other variations. Urban Meyer, however, calls it "the H-back".

Last season, the Buckeyes had a type of "mash up" at the H-back position. Without a true option in that role, Meyer asked Jake Stoneburner and Philly Brown to do their part to fill certain voids, but they could only provide what their ability allowed.

We couldn't even call the position "H-back" last year, because that implies carries, and there were only a few all season long. This spring, however, we saw a little bit of what the position will look like this year, and it involves matchup problem after matchup problem.

It's clear that the true H-back position will carry the ball more than we saw last year. In fact, it will do more of everything once Tom Herman gets this offense clicking and Braxton Miller is comfortable with it.

The purpose of this Ohio State offense is to stress a defense, and other than quarterback, there is probably no position where that is more true than with the H-Back. Given the athletes that will man the position this year for the Buckeyes, defenses are going to have to decide how to match up, and doing it with a linebacker will probably be a very bad idea.

Returning Starter: Jordan Hall (Sr.)

Jordan Hall
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

Calling Jordan Hall a returning starter at H-back is technically incorrect, but he does have six career starts at tailback under his belt, so let's agree to stretch the truth here a bit.

Hall opened the spring with a dominating practice, and then we never saw him again due to an injury. The injury wasn't that serious, but the impact that Hall could have on this offense certainly is.

Meyer loves his quickness, and he has improved as a receiver since last season. Much has been written about Hall this spring, and many fans have reached the point where they are now tuning out the talk until they see the proof for themselves.Stan Drayton is excited, however, even without seeing much of Hall during the spring.

"I think he took a step forward from a cognitive standpoint because he had to study our system a little differently from that receiver position," Drayton said a week after the spring game.

"He took his vision point from that of a running back, box reads, to seeing the whole field at receiver. So all of that, for a person like Jordan who is already a smart football player, all of that helps him. He will be a young man out there that plays at the right speed and makes very little mistakes, and things of that sort.

"I still think it was a productive spring for him although he wasn't physically able to get out there and do the things that we wanted him to do, but he's a quick study in that way. He's a very functional, very smart football player. Without many reps, he can still be very productive for you."

Others Returning: Chris Fields (Sr.)

Chris Fields
Photo by Jim Davidson
Chris Fields

With Hall nursing his injury, Chris Fields took advantage of every snap that he was given this spring. He was a consistent playmaker in both the passing game and the running game. Granted, he will not carry the ball between the tackles, but he was effective running wide on the option.

He showed tremendous hands all through spring, and he never shied away from contact when he had the ball in his hands. Fields had a mental makeover during the offseason, and the results were apparent every single day.

"Chris was a flash in the pan type of guy last year," Zach Smith explained.

"He would show you something that you loved, and then the next play he would let you down. It was kind of an emotional roller coaster with his performance last year. Whereas he came into this spring more committed, and had a better understanding, and was more confident that he could do those things consistently.

"I felt like he was going to be more consistent and make those plays that we needed him to, but we needed to see it. And he did it. In 15 practices, he did what he needed to do. That's the biggest thing that he developed, consistency and a true understanding of the offense and the position."

Newcomers: Dontre Wilson (Fr.), Jalin Marshall (Fr.)

As Stan Drayton explained when the spring was over, the H-back can be either a running back or a wide receiver, and when the position is running at its best, there will be options from both sides.

Enter Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall. Even though neither participated in spring practice, there are still expectations for both. Wilson was a running back in high school, and will likely start there when he arrives in Columbus. Marshall was a dynamic quarterback who showed off his receiving ability in various camp and combine environments.

Together they both provide a home run hitting presence at a position where they don't necessarily have one yet. Jordan Hall and Chris Fields do what they do well, but neither of them are known for their ability to strike quickly. It also wouldn't be a surprise to see incoming freshman Ezekiel Elliott get a look at this spot as well.

There is still quite a bit to figure out at a very important position. If the Buckeye offense is going to approach its potential, it will need the H-back position to step up.

"You're going to see the offense work in its full function now," Drayton said this spring.

"We're going to displace defenders, get those linebackers out of the box, maybe force the defense to change the personnel, put more defensive backs on the football field as opposed to linebackers. People can't hone in on just a quarterback or just the running backs. They've got other people who are displacing the formation that they have to worry about.

"It's going to be significantly different. It should make life easier for the whole operation of the offense, no doubt about it. We should see some interesting box sets. Some interesting lesser numbers in the box because of that threat out there in the perimeter. It's definitely going to be beneficial to the run game."

Depth Chart
Jordan Hall (5-8 197, Sr.)
Chris Fields (6-0 200, Sr.)
Dontre Wilson (5-10 174, Fr.)
Jalin Marshall (6-0 190, Fr.)

Spring Links:

New Attitude Leads to New Results for Chris Fields

On Second Thought: The Ohio State Spring Game and the H-Back

Spring Football Notebook: Hall Missing, Pitt Brown Leads Goal Line Stand

Hall Embracing ‘Pivotal’ Role This Spring: Buckeyes Expect Senior to Take Pressure off Miller, Hyde

It's Never Enough: With More Speed Approaching, Meyer Still Looking for Playmakers This Spring

10 Things We Learned from First Day of Spring Ball

Spring Practice Insider: Jordan Hall Returns in Big Way

Meyer Expects Jordan Hall to Fill Hybrid Role This Spring

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