Ohio State football: Hall eager to line up as hybrid back in spread
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer chooses players to face off in the circle drill during a spring practice. The Buckeyes resumed practice after having last week off.
Jordan Hall has been smiling a lot this spring — even yesterday, despite a slightly pulled hamstring that kept him out of on-field action — because the fifth-year senior knows that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and the offensive staff have big plans for him in the fall if he finally can play a full season.
He is going to be the hybrid back, who lines up in the slot as a running back/receiver and adds the elasticity to the spread offense. Just what his duties will be …
“I really don’t know, to be honest,” Hall said. “I just know catching passes, coach Meyer told me — motions to the backfield, catching screens, different things like that. So I’m really trying to figure it out for myself, too.”
But he likes the concept.
“Usually when you catch the ball as a receiver, there’s two people to make miss,” Hall said. “At running back, you’ve got to run through the D-line, linebackers and safety, so I figure I can make two people miss.”
That he had to watch a lot of the practice yesterday was disappointing for him, but not considering his plight a year ago. A cut foot suffered in early summer delayed by two games his 2012 debut. Then a sprain of a posterior cruciate ligament in his third game back ended his season.
“I’d never even heard of it,” Hall said of the PCL.
But that injury allowed him to gain a fifth season of eligibility due to medical hardship. And before tweaking his hamstring, he had been off to a fast start on his return this spring.
“I’m really just trying to embrace it,” Hall said of the extra year. “Because last year went fast, even though I had to sit out, so I know this year will go even faster with me playing. So I am just trying to embrace every day and have fun with it.”
Toward that goal, spring has its purpose, running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “It is critical, because he is being cross-trained at two positions,” Drayton said. “But at the same time, Jordan is a very football-savvy guy. He’s been in the fire. He’s super smart.
“It’s not an issue of missed assignments or anything like that. He understands the scheme. It’s just a matter of getting the body reps right now.”
At the same time, “we want to get him as healthy as we possibly can,” Drayton said.
Hall did little more than flirt with the position last year, due to the injuries.
“I knew everything at running back, and I’m still trying to learn this position,” he said.
The hybrid back is a lot like the position he played in high school in Jeannette, Pa., he said, when he was the all-purpose player who, as a junior, augmented the talents of quarterback Terrelle Pryor on a state-championship team in 2007. But “it’s kind of different, playing against a college defense,” Hall said.
Drayton estimated that OSU used only “about 60 percent” of the Meyer-inspired spread playbook last year because of the absence of Hall, the only player who had all the qualities necessary for the hybrid spot.
“You’re going to see the offense work in its full function now,” Drayton said. “We’re going to be able to displace defenders, get those linebackers out of the (tackle) box, maybe force the defense to change their personnel, maybe put more DBs (defensive backs) on the field as opposed to linebackers.
“You can’t home in on just the quarterback or just the running backs. … It should make life easier for the whole operation of the offense, no doubt about it.”
The next four weeks are about getting Hall up to speed. Although Dontre Wilson of DeSoto, Texas, and Jalin Marshall of Middletown are two members of the incoming recruiting class expected to add depth to the position in the fall, Hall is a veteran and a leader — the team voted him a co-captain last year.
That’s why Hall smiled when asked whether he considered this a forget-me-not spring.
“I’m not really worried about that,” he said. “I figure if I’m on the field and I have a chance to make plays, people will see it.”