The Reinstatement Impact
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State announced Tuesday they would have Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown back for their game against Miami, and this time they meant it.
After sitting out the first two games of the season for accepting improper benefits, all three will be uniform Saturday as the Buckeyes take on the Hurricanes in the battle of two teams scrambling to get ineligible players back in the lineup in time to play a football game.
But what kind of lift will these three players give the Buckeyes Saturday night in South Beach? It’s not like they are getting Boom Herron, DeVier Posey and Mike Adams back.
The Ohio State players tried to play off the impact of these suspensions, but there is no question that the timing of last Friday’s hammer had a negative effect on the Buckeyes as they took the field Saturday against Toledo.
Not only did the players expect their teammates to be with them in the trenches, but they didn’t find out until Friday evening that those three—Hall, Howard and Brown—wouldn’t be available.
Even Luke Fickell admitted it was a lot tougher to find out like that than to prepare all week knowing they weren’t going to be out there.
As negative as that was—and we’ll never really know if that contributed to their less than impressive performance against the Rockets—Tuesday’s news had to be like the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders.
Or at least the Western hemisphere.
All-American center Michael Brewster Tweeted that it’s a “great day to be a Buckeye,” but nobody felt more relieved than those three guys involved. Just having them on the flight to Miami will be an emotional lift, let alone the energy they will bring running out of the tunnel on Saturday.
Hall Brings Instant Impact
Photo by Jim Davidson
Of the three players returning on Saturday, Hall is the one guy who could completely swing the outcome of the game. He isn’t going to start the game unless something happens to Carlos Hyde between now and kickoff, but that doesn’t mean Hall won’t be a factor against the ‘Canes.
Hyde has earned the right to start the game at tailback, at least in the eyes of coach Fickell and his staff, but the No. 2 tailback spot is wide open right now.
Jaamal Berry returned last week after missing the opener with a hamstring injury, but it appears they aren’t in a hurry to rush him back into action at tailback. Fickell talks about being “men of action” and Berry wasn’t able to do a lot of action during fall camp.
He returned to the kickoff team last week, but the carries behind Hyde still went to redshirt freshman Rod Smith. He is a good-looking prospect with a bright future, but it’s hard to overcome two fumbles like the ones Smith has had this season.
If his first one inside the five-yard line wasn’t bad enough, last week’s nearly cost the Buckeyes a win against Toledo. Fickell saw Eddie George go through a similar experience his freshman year at Ohio State, but part of the reason Eddie one the Heisman Trophy his senior year might be because he had to work his butt to get back on the field.
But Hall is so much more than just a ball carrier. His quickness will be a boost to an Ohio State offense that seemed a step slow last week against Toledo. He can line up in the slot or catch passes out of the backfield, and it would be smart of the Buckeyes to find different ways to get him the ball in space.
He could be asked to do a lot more of that this week if Philly Brown isn’t ready to go on the ankle he re-injured against Toledo.
The Buckeyes will also use Hall on kick return, where he will rejoin Berry, and possibly on punt return as well, although Chris Fields might have something to say about that.
What About the Other Two?
It seems unfair to lump Travis Howard and Corey Brown together, considering where they were before the suspensions. Brown did an excellent job climbing the depth chart during camp, but Howard was expected to be OSU’s top defensive back this season.
He isn’t a returning starter, but he felt like one all during the off-season. He was playing with a high level of confidence and could help the Buckeyes create more turnovers Saturday (they only have two in two games without him).
The problem for Howard is how they can work him back in with the way Dominic Clarke played. One solution would be to play Clarke and Howard together, but that would mean sitting Bradley Roby, who beat out Clarke during camp.
It’s not Roby’s fault that Akron and Toledo chose to test Clarke on the other side, but there is no denying the fact Clarke passed that test with flying colors. He has been the biggest bright spot on the back end of the Ohio State’s defense through two games, and he will likely get the start against Miami.
That means Howard will come off the bench, but that’s not a terrible problem for Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock.
He won’t have to worry about finding a spot for Brown, who cracked the two-deep during camp. Christian Bryant is the unofficial third safety if anything happens to C.J. Barnett or Orhian Johnson, but Brown could factor on special teams for the Buckeyes.
Regardless of how they perform Saturday, it just has to feel good for this group to finally have something go their way.
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