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Ohio State’s Jordan Hall starting over, flourishing under Urban Meyer

Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor

Hit the restart button.

That was the message Urban Meyer sent to his newly inherited Ohio State team shortly after getting hired last November.

The first-year Buckeyes coach told every one of his players to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Jordan Hall was admittedly listening closely that day, and the senior running back has taken Meyer’s words to heart ever since.

Hall was recently bestowed with one of the highest honors an OSU football player can receive when the senior running back was named a team captain Aug. 19. Elected by his teammates, Hall joined defensive lineman John Simon, fullback Zach Boren, linebacker Etienne Sabino and nose tackle Garrett Goebel as the leaders of the 2012 Buckeyes’ squad.

While the soft-spoken Jeannette, Pa. native said he thought he had a chance at being chosen a captain, the moment Meyer read off his name in front of all his teammates was a bit of a shock for the veteran playmaker.

“It kind of caught me by surprise,” Hall said. “I knew I had a chance, but when Coach Meyer called my name, it kind of did catch me by surprise.”

Hall has had his fair share of troubles throughout his three-year career as a Buckeye, highlighted by a two-game suspension he received at the beginning of last season. At a Cleveland-area charity event last summer, Hall, along with two other OSU players, took $200 from a former Buckeye booster and was forced to sit out the team’s first two games of the 2011 season.

You could say Hall’s journey to captain began after that suspension ended – Hall was, in fact, a captain for one of OSU’s games last season – but the running back would disagree. Hall said he started over once Meyer was hired and that it’s been “smooth sailing” for him ever since.

Hall has impressed Meyer in almost every way imaginable, from his play on the field to his performance in the classroom.
“Jordan Hall, his GPA the last two (quarters) … that tells you what he’s done … over a 3.0,” Meyer said of his running back, who had a 3.0 GPA Winter Quarter and a 3.4 GPA in the spring.

While Meyer has been pleased with Hall’s performance off the field, he has been ecstatic about his play on it, even though the running back hasn’t had much time to showcase his ability. Hall sat out of the Buckeyes’ Spring Game and missed all of fall camp while recovering from a foot injury.

“The guy’s tremendous,” Meyer said of Hall on a July conference call for the American Century Championship golf tournament. “We’re not exactly loaded at that position right now – offensive skill. I’ve been in this long enough. (Hall’s) the kind of warrior who will come back rather quickly if he can.”

What Hall will be coming back from is somewhat of a freak injury.

On June 27, Hall let his pit bull, Cali, out into the front yard of his Columbus residence. When a barefoot Hall went to clean up after the dog, a broken bottle buried in the grass cut the heel of his foot. He had surgery to repair the damage on June 30, and was in a walking boot until last week.

Hall has been rehabbing hard since his surgery – running in the pool, biking and catching 200-300 balls a day while standing still. Hall said he hopes to be ready to play by OSU’s Sept. 8 game against Central Florida.

When Hall gets back to full health, he will be the Buckeyes’ starting running back. Hall verified himself worthy of the spot prior to the injury, the OSU coaching staff said.

“Jordan really proved himself in the spring, you know, so we’re just trying to get him back,” said OSU running back coach Stan Drayton. “There wasn’t a whole lot that he needed to come out here to this fall camp to prove. I mean, he’s going to be an integral part to this offense.”

Hall will get the majority of the carries in the Buckeyes’ offense, but he will be much more than just a runner. Meyer’s noted spread focuses around a hybrid position – a “No. 3,” Meyer calls it. Hall will fill that position, which combines the duties of a running back and a receiver.

The senior running back is expected to get the ball in just about every way imaginable. From handoffs to reverses to swing passes, Hall will be expected to gain yards in a variety of ways. Made most famous by former Florida receiver Percy Harvin, who ran for more than 600 yards and had more than 600 yards receiving in his junior season as a Gator, the “No. 3” is someone who can just about do it all.

Hall has shown flashes of being able to threaten defenses with both his legs and his hands in previous seasons. He ran for 405 yards on 99 attempts last season, good for 4.1 yards per carry, and had three touchdown catches.

Besides quarterback, the hybrid spot might be the most important position on the offensive side of the ball.

“It really adds to the versatility of what we can do, both personnel-wise and formation-wise,” Drayton said. “It’s a very integral part.”
Hall is an almost perfect fit for the position, Drayton said.

“He’s so versatile,” Drayton said. “He’s a physical ball carrier and he’s got great hands. He’s a very smart football player.”

The OSU coaching staff has learned how difficult it can be to find a player who can do what the position requires. With Hall out, OSU has tried numerous players in the hybrid spot – among them, redshirt senior receiver Jake Stoneburner, junior receiver Corey “Philly” Brown and sophomore receiver Devin Smith. But Meyer called the search “average.”

“That’s hard to find that guy,” Meyer said. “I’m finding out it’s really hard to find a guy who can do this and do this.”

Hall’s return to the field can’t come soon enough for the Buckeyes, and the offense isn’t expected to miss a beat when he does.

“The essence of the offense has to be installed this time of year and fully understood by our players so that we don’t skip a beat when we do get a player back,” Drayton said. “We have to operate on all levels, all cylinders the right way.”

The Buckeyes will likely benefit from Hall’s experience on the field when he gets back, but the veteran has been a leader for OSU even during his time away from practice. Hall said his work ethic over the past two months has been something that the younger Buckeyes can strive for.

“I just try to (lead) by the way I handle (the injury).” Hall said. “I’m not making any excuses. I’m still working, doing different things to show them you can only control the things you can control.”

Whether he returns to the field Sept. 8 against Central Florida or the following week against California, Hall said he is going to do everything in his power to make sure this season doesn’t end like the Buckeyes’ 6-7 season in 2011. Hall, a senior, can’t hit the restart button after this year. The 2012 campaign will be his final season with the Buckeyes – one last chance to achieve success.

“I knew how last season went, and I’m not trying to go out in my senior season like that,” Hall said. 

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