Heading into Ohio State’s 2012 season, it was widely expected that then-senior running back Jordan Hall would be the featured back in the first year under new coach Urban Meyer.
Hall was even named captain for the 2012 squad, but was forced to sit on the sidelines for all but three games because of two unrelated injuries.
“It was tough, it wasn’t as tough because we won every game, so I feel like if we had lost a couple of games it would have been even tougher because I would have felt like I could’ve helped,” Hall said when asked about his time spent on the bench last season. “But we won every game so I was happy for my teammates.”
After being granted a medical redshirt and since returning to full health, Hall was thrust into the spotlight for the 2013 season opener against Buffalo.
Hall was named the starter for the game after the suspensions of top running backs senior Carlos Hyde and redshirt-junior Rod Smith.
Hall quelled any doubts fans might have had by halftime, tallying 126 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the first half. He finished with 159 yards on the day, a career high.
Coach Urban Meyer said Hall stood out against Buffalo on offense for the Buckeyes.
“Offensive champions were Jordan Hall, great to see him, 159 yards and graded out 81 percent. I guess those are career highs for him and I thought he played very well,” Meyer said.
Both of his touchdowns came on big runs, one of which was a career-long at 49 yards. The other, a 37-yard sprint, came one play after Buffalo had cut the lead to 10 points and all but dashed any hope the Bulls had for a comeback.
Junior quarterback Braxton Miller said Hall’s second touchdown helped to keep the momentum in Ohio State’s favor as the game was starting to slip away from the Buckeyes.
“It slipped a little bit. But Dontre (Wilson) came back with a nice kickoff return, we got up a little bit and then Jordan (Hall) scored a nice little run,” Miller said.
Hall credits his touchdown runs to the holes created for him by the offensive line.
“I just was like, wow, I don’t know if they messed up or the O-line just did what they do and I just (saw) it and I took it,” Hall said.
During the offseason, Meyer said he thought Hall would end up as the H-back and use his skill set to help the team there rather than in the back field.
“Last spring, I had the intention of making Jordan Hall more of an H, but an H that can come in and motion in and that’s when he can cause issues for defenses,” Meyer said.
Hall said he spent time preparing to be the H-back, but was also ready if he was needed as a traditional running back.
“I was going to be the H and coach told me I had to learn both positions, so wherever they put me, I’m going to do what I have to do to help the team win,” Hall said.
Hall finished the game with three catches for 14 yards to go along with his rushing total, but also caught a pass for a two-point conversion from senior quarterback Kenny Guiton.
Although he wasn’t expecting to be on the field for the conversion, Hall thought it was a nice addition to the offense.
“At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t even the person that caught the ball. Then in the first week, (running backs) coach (Stan) Drayton put me in there. I like it. The defense can’t take a play off,” Hall said.
Hall was glad to see the team come out to a fast start, taking a 23-0 lead after the first quarter, but felt the team got complacent and slowed their pace after that.
“Coach (offensive coordinator Tom Herman) challenged us to come out fast, get things going, and I think we did that,” Hall said. “In the second half, we slowed down a little bit, but we’ll be better next week.”
Hyde, the expected starter heading into the season, is set to return from suspension Sept. 21 against Florida A&M. With Hall’s performance in the opener the player who will be the Buckeye’s long-term starter at running back remains up in the air.
Hall said he isn’t worried about Hyde’s return, and said it’s about the team, not his individual stats.
“Carlos (Hyde), he earned his right. He had a good season last year and I know that he was going to be the running back at the beginning of the season before he got in trouble or whatever and I was going to play a different position,” Hall said. “Coach Meyer knows that he has a bunch of people that can play running back or H position so I think it’s just going to be harder for a defense to prepare for that.”
Drayton said when redshirt-junior Rod Smith returns from suspension Hall’s role might not change.
“The beauty of Jordan (Hall), again, like I said, his strength is his intelligence on the football field and he has been cross-trained and he is continually being cross-trained at both of those positions,” Drayton said. “So with the addition of Rod Smith coming back, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Jordan Hall’s role gets lesser. No, it just may be distributed a little bit differently throughout the scheme.”
OSU is set host to San Diego State Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.