Jeannette grad Hall set for final season at Ohio State
Most expected 2012 to be the year Jordan Hall to emerged not only as the top running back at Ohio State University, but perhaps even one of the top offensive players in the entire Big Ten.
This time last year, Hall — a Jeannette High School graduate — was entering what he expected to be his senior season with the Buckeyes. Urban Meyer had just taken over as Ohio State's head coach, bringing his wide-open, high-scoring offensive attack with him. Hall was pegged to be the starting running back and one of the focal points of the entire offense.
During summer workouts last year, however, Hall cut his foot on a piece of glass, an injury that required surgery and put him on the shelf for the first two games of the season.
He returned for games three and four — showing flashes of the brilliant talent that has made him a player to watch his entire career — before a knee injury against Michigan State in week five knocked him out the rest of the year. It appeared his collegiate career was over.
But Hall was granted a medical redshirt and a fifth year of eligibility and, as a result, he returns this season for his senior season. Again.
And, once again, he's pegged to be one of the team's top offensive players.
The 5-foot-8, 197-pound Hall is regarded as one of the top players in Jeannette history, averaging 8.5 yards per carry and gaining 946 rushing yards, 266 receiving yards and a combined 24 touchdowns as a senior with the Jayhawks.
He arrived at NCAA Division I Ohio State as a highly-touted recruit in 2009 and made a quick impact, rushing for 257 yards as a freshman, then followed that up with 159 yards rushing as a sophomore.
Hall was poised for a breakout year in 2011, but he missed a game with an injury and two more due to NCAA violations; he rushed for 418 yards that season, but managed to become one of the top kick returners in the country, with 683 yards on 26 returns.
The prolific kick returns showed he's a legitimate special teams playmaker at the college level, but as a running back — while accumulating solid totals — he never made the leap into that elite category where Jeannette fans believe he can be.
It looked like that would change, last year. After returning from the foot injury, he gained 218 on 40 carries in two-plus games before the knee injury ended it all. Now he has one more chance.
When Ohio State kicks off its 2013 season this Saturday, with a home nonconference game against Buffalo, Hall will be the starting tailback. He'll have ample opportunity to put a stranglehold on that starting job with Carlos Hyde — Ohio State's other primary running back — suspended for the first three games of the season.
Kickoff is set for noon, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Cox set to debut
Another former Jayhawk expected to have ample opportunity to shine at the Division I level this season is Demetrious Cox, a redshirt freshman safety at Michigan State.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Cox was one of the most highly regarded players in the Spartans' 2012 recruiting class. Coaches have indicated Cox was talented enough to play last season, but they opted to redshirt their prized recruit, saving a year of his eligibility.
Throughout training camp, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has indicated that the team considered burning the redshirt midway through last season but is now thrilled they opted to preserve that eligibility as Cox now has four full years ahead of him with the Spartans.
He enters the season as the second string safety, will play in the nickel and dime packages, and he's also expected to see plenty of action on special teams.
Cox and Michigan State will play in one of the first games of the college football season tomorrow night when they host Western Michigan at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
Kickoff for most Division II and Division III programs is still more than a week away, but there are numerous Jeannette products dotting the rosters of various regional.
At the Division II level, Jordan Batts is a redshirt sophomore defensive end at IUP and Shavonta Craft is a freshman running back at West Liberty.
Local products playing at the Division III level include Damon Bodnar (sophomore running back, Westminster), Darius Brown (junior defensive back, St. Vincent), Sean Edmunds (junior offensive lineman, St. Vincent), Pat Mahoney (junior offensive Lineman, Mount Union), Zachary Nedley (sophomore defensive back, Westminster) and Thomas Paulone (senior running back, Waynesburg).
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Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.