Jordan Hall could have done a victory lap of sorts after his career-best day on Saturday.
He could have crowed about overcoming injuries to emerge as the main man in a crowded Ohio State backfield.
Hall could have stated a desire to settle in as the Buckeyes’ starting tailback and not have to think about juggling positions.
That’s not who Jordan Hall is. The senior from Jeannette, Pa., was happy with his performance against Buffalo but not satisfied. Though he surpassed his career high for yards in a game by the second quarter and finished with 159, including touchdown runs of 49 and 37 yards, he faulted himself for not doing more.
“I’ve got a lot to get better at,” Hall said. “There were a couple of good runs, but there’s a lot of work to do personally and as a team.”
Hall’s performance was particularly impressive considering the rust he had to shake off. He was projected to be the Buckeyes’ top running back in 2012, but he missed the first part of the season after cutting a tendon in his foot when he stepped on glass outside his apartment. Then, in only his third game back, he suffered a torn posterior cruciate knee ligament and missed the rest of the season.
After he was hampered by a hamstring injury during spring practice, Hall could have gotten lost in the shuffle at tailback in the Buckeyes’ deep backfield. Carlos Hyde emerged in Hall’s absence last year as a talented workhorse running back. Rod Smith, who returns from a one-game suspension this week against San Diego State, finally began showing some of his immense promise. Impressive freshman Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott were ready to make their mark, as were sophomore Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt freshman Warren Ball.
Coach Urban Meyer shifted Hall to H-back, a hybrid running back/receiver, to take advantage of his catching skills. But when Hyde was suspended for at least the first three games, Hall was moved back to tailback and seized the job.
After the Buffalo game, Hall acknowledged that he had trouble sleeping on Friday. But he demurred when asked if he particularly savored the performance after the injuries he’d endured.
“Not really,” he said. “This is what I’ve been doing. It feels natural to be out there. It was fun to be out there with the team again.”
Running backs coach Stan Drayton said that Hall has made an “unbelievable change” as a person over the past couple of years.
“He’s grown tremendously,” Drayton said.
Drayton described Hall as a student of the game with strong football intelligence.
“He can come out of a series in a game and come to the bench and tell you exactly what’s going on,” Drayton said. “That’s a very comfortable thing for a position coach, who doesn’t quite have the vision that the players have while they’re out there playing.”
At 5 feet 9 and 191 pounds, Hall doesn’t have prototype size for the power running game Ohio State wants. But he is strong for his frame and very agile.
With the return of Smith this week and Hyde soon after, it remains to be seen how Hall will be used.
“Carlos earned his right,” Hall said. “He had a good season last year. I knew he was going to be a running back at the beginning of the season before he got in trouble, and I was going to play a different position.”
Drayton said Hall has been “cross-trained” at tailback and H-back. He said that Hall might be used differently but not less when Smith and Hyde return.
Hall said he doesn’t have a preference about whether he plays tailback or H-back.
“I’m just going to go to whatever position they put me at and try to make plays,” he said.