Hall Brings Fresh Attitude to Ohio State’s New Offense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Aside from a few minor physical attributes—his arms seem to get larger by the day—the 2012 version of Jordan Hall doesn’t look much different than his 2011 counterpart.
Why should he?
Photo by Dan Harker
Hall still spends most of his days inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, just as he did during the first three years of his career at Ohio State. He goes from the locker room to the practice field to the weight room. In between, he has to make time for film sessions, position meetings, studying and training tables.
Much like the rest of his veteran teammates, Hall has gotten used to the daily grind of being a Buckeye football player. It had not changed much in his first three years since coming to Columbus from the small western Pennsylvania town of Jeannette.
Hall had not changed much either.
That was something Stan Drayton noticed immediately when he made the hop-step from coaching the wide receivers in his first year at Ohio State to coaching the running backs under Urban Meyer.
He knew he needed to have a talk with Hall about becoming a leader or becoming a memory.
“That was a very hard conversation when I came into this running back position,” Drayton acknowledged.
“That was something he had to do, or we had to evaluate if this was going to be the right situation for him.”
Today, Hall shudders to think about that meeting with Drayton, who is every bit the straight-shooting, tell it like it is kind of coach that hired him to coach the running backs, first at the University of Florida and now at the Ohio State University.
“I don’t even want to think about,” Hall said shaking his head with a half smile.
“I always liked coach Drayton since he got here because he was the return coach. He and I have always had a good relationship, but there were some things I had to take care of. I feel like I had been slacking a little bit.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
Down the Wrong Path
It was two days before the start of the 2011 football season.
Hall was preparing for one of the biggest moments of his life. He was on the verge of making the first start of his collegiate career, three years after signing with Ohio State out of high school.
It was a big moment, and the Buckeyes needed a big moment out of their junior tailback after senior Boom Herron had been suspended for the first five games of the season.
All the talk in Columbus was about shocking the world, but the real shock came on Sept. 1 when Hall and two of his teammates—defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey Brown—were suspended indefinitely for receiving impermissible benefits at a charity event earlier in the year.
Hall was stunned.
So was the Ohio State community, especially after everything that had happened in December with the tattoos scandal, which ultimately led to the resignation of beloved head coach Jim Tressel.
Turning Things Around
Hall never really found his stride after that. He showed glimpses in the loss to Miami, but his numbers declined steadily. He averaged 2.5 yards per carry in the loss to Michigan State and 2.9 yards on 17 carries at Nebraska.
His performance in the classroom was also slipping, as Hall finished with a 2.0 grade point average during Fall Quarter. Things were a mess and there was a chance he might not make it with the new coaching staff.
“It was time for me to grow up and realize this program is bigger than me,” Hall admitted.
That was something Hall’s former high school teammate never quite seemed to understand during his time in Columbus, but Drayton has seen a complete overhaul—on and off the field—from his now senior tailback this off-season.
It started in the classroom.
"Any time a kid goes from a 2.0 to a 3.4 in a quarter, that represents change in a positive way. Then you see the leadership and the toughness in the weight room and on the field,” Drayton said.
“That was already there, but he’s taking it to another level. I see him embracing teammates and encouraging freshmen. I didn’t see Jordan Hall doing that last year. He’s very unselfish right now and he feels accountable to his teammates right now.”
Hall is in the precarious position of having to compete with younger guys like Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith, while also being a mentor and a leader on the field and in the locker room.
He has also had to work with freshman tailback Bri’onte Dunn since the Canton Glenn Oak product arrived at Ohio State as an early enrollee back in January. A year ago, Hall wouldn’t have taken the time, but he’s a different guy these days.
“I just try to answer questions for the young guys and try to show them how to practice hard, and how that translates to the game,” Hall said.
“Boom (Herron) did a good job of leading us last year, even when he was gone for the first couple games. He was still vocal at practice and stuff like that. I learned from him and DeVier (Posey) and how they led the team, and I’m trying to be like them as a leader.”
That might sound a little backwards considering those two players weren’t exactly models of integrity during their football careers at Ohio State. That was one of the reasons Drayton needed to have that talk with Hall before the start of spring practice.
“He embraced that and took it as a challenge, and I’m so proud of him that he made it his way of life,” Drayton added.
“It’s his lifestyle now. He’s a very accountable person, and I can’t wait to see how it transfers to the season.”
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