Posted: 3:20 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, 2013
By Matt Brown
So back around 1996, when I was 9, I got the best Christmas gift EVER: a Sega Genesis. I had been clamoring for one for years, and had YouTube been around back then, I have no doubt that my reaction would be flying around the Internet, since I remember being just like this guy. I'm not even sure if I bothered opening up the rest of the gifts (Socks? WHATEVER SANTA), I ran over to hook up the Sega to take Sonic for some adventures. My sisters probably didn't see me for a month.
When I got that Sega, it's all I wanted to play with. I'd been hyped up for the last 18 months that Sonic 3 was the pinnacle of any kind of entertainment, one that would finally win me friends and the respect of my peers (which, when you remember that we're talking about 9 year olds here, wasn't that far fetched). It was shiny, new, and full of awesome, 16-bit glory.
Did that Sega make my Legos, basketball hoop or pogs less cool? No, and when I was hopelessly stuck by Dr Robotnik on the Ice Level, or when I got grounded, those other toys were great.
What's my point? Jordan Hall is just like those Legos.
Over the offseason, us Buckeye fans were lucky to get a ton of fancy, shiny offensive skill position Christmas gifts. Here, a brand new Dontre Wilson, with a speed dial that goes to 11! Look, a fancy Jalin Marshall, and a speedy James Clark! There's even a refurbished Warren Ball and Rod Smith under the tree. Even though Ohio State has had a strong recent tradition of running back and wide receiver play, after last season, it was hard not to be enchanted by all the new speed at wideout, and the raw potential of some of the running backs.
All of those guys are great, but after the first game, Donte Wilson's near TD not withstanding, the shiny new toys weren't the key offensive weapons in leading the Buckeyes to a 40-20 victory over Buffalo. Perhaps the real offensive MVP? The Legos on the team, Jordan Hall.
All Hall did in that first game was grab a career high 159 yards on 21 carries, score two TDs on long runs, and catch another three passes for 14 yards. On his backbreaking 49 and 37-yard dashes, he was barely touched from the line of scrimmage, and his ability to run between the tackles opened up the play action ability for Braxton Miller. He did a little bit of everything.
Last year was supposed to be Hall's year, but you probably remember the story. He missed the first two games of the 2012 season after a freak accident involving him stepping on some glass. After promising performances against Cal and UAB, he suffered a torn posterior cruciate knee ligament that knocked him out for the season, while Carlos Hyde removed any and all doubts about who the principal ball carrier should be. After Hall dinged up his hamstring during spring practice, it was easy to see him lost in what was projected to be a historically deep Buckeye backfield. The former projected starting running back was now seen as many as a cursory receiving option.
Hall doesn't have the breakneck speed of a Wilson or an Ezekiel Elliott necessarily, but he can catch, and perhaps more importantly, he brings some critical experience and intelligence to the position group. From running back coach Stan Drayton,
"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."
With Rod Smith coming back tomorrow, and a potentially full stable of running backs in the fold soon, the odds of Hall grabbing 23 carries from the backfield are probably slim, but the coaching staff has been adamant that we haven't seen the last of Jordan Hall.
After last year's team, rife with inconsistency in the passing game, and few playmakers outside of Braxton Miller doing XBRAX360 type things, it seems almost hard to believe that this year's squad might actually feature too many potential playmakers, and finding ways to give all of them the ball might be tricky. Here, the versatility of Hall, along with his experience, will be critical. If the offense needs somebody to catch a few screens and get into space, Hall can do that, If they need somebody to take a few handoffs as a change of pace back, he can do that too. If they need a decoy in space, better call Hall.
Plus, there is something to be said about having an experienced hand in the backfield, when Ohio State may be depending on an awful lot of youth this season, on both sides of the ball.
There is nothing wrong with Elliott, Wilson, Marshall or Ball, and I'm thrilled to have them in the program for the next few years, just like I was about that Sega Genesis. There's nothing wrong with going a little old school once in a while though, and when the newfangled technology breaks down, like it inevitably will at some point this season, you're always glad you have a fall back