Hall's return buoys run game

Back should expect to take on more load than his 17 carries against California

Updated: September 20, 2012, 9:23 PM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's a bit of fluctuation in the number that has been tossed around in the meeting rooms.

Considering there's no exact formula to figure out how many yards Jordan Hall could have, or perhaps should have, piled up in his return from offseason foot surgery, that's not really surprising.

[+] EnlargeJordan Hall
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteJordan Hall was impressive in his season debut last weekend and could take some of the rushing load off Braxton Miller's shoulders.
Whether the total comes in on the low side at around 50, or as high as the 70 his coach remembered, the Ohio State running back certainly saw plenty of yardage left on the field when he watched it on film. But Hall's process for determining how much wasn't exactly scientific -- the senior simply tried to count how far away the end zone was when he couldn't quite take advantage of holes his blockers opened up or the clear paths to touchdowns ahead of him when he went down.

"There was a few times where I slipped on one of my linemen's feet," Hall said. "A couple times where I let one guy tackle me. I really tried to focus on that this week so that don't happen again.

"On the runs when I tripped on the linemen, there was nobody else there."

Hall stayed on his feet long enough to finish with 87 yards in his first game since cutting a tendon in his foot this past summer, and that actual total was enough to lead the Buckeyes without him needing to calculate and add in the opportunities he missed.

That extra yardage obviously would have helped an offense that hit a lull in the middle stages of the win over California, but the Buckeyes were encouraged by the effort either way, as Hall's health didn't appear to be slowing him down. He wasn't at 100 percent after just receiving medical clearance to play during the week leading up to the game -- and he still might not be Saturday against UAB.

But the holes he didn't read correctly or the defenders he couldn't shake one-on-one were apparently a result of the rust accumulated through 10 weeks on the sideline, not the pain in his foot. And that likely bodes well for the Ohio State ground attack as he goes back to work with a game and another week of practice under his belt.

"He's a tough guy that battles and is dying to play in that stadium," coach Urban Meyer said. "He had a better week this week, and I'm much more comfortable.

"He stumble-bumbled a couple times and if he picks his feet up, he even told me he counted 70 yards that he should have come away with. That's interesting that he noticed it, too. I think what you're seeing across the landscape, and you see it every year, sometimes guys make something out of nothing or guys pull through tackles. Right now we're not getting a lot of that."

The Buckeyes are getting it from quarterback Braxton Miller, and back in the season opener Carlos Hyde was absorbing a lot of contact and extending most of his carries after getting hit. But the best-case scenario for Meyer would be to keep Miller to about the 12 carries he had a week ago to limit the physical toll on his signal-caller, and Hyde is unavailable due to a knee sprain that will keep him out for the second consecutive week.

That puts the pressure on Hall to get back on track quickly -- and ride it a bit longer than he did last week.

"From what he did, first game back, that was amazing to me," right guard Marcus Hall said. "He's a great running back and we won, so that's all that matters.

"He told me he [was disappointed], but I just told him that I know he's going to be running around crazy this Saturday."

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter