Notebook: Ball, Hale Among Summer Standouts

Who is the hardest Buckeye tailback to tackle? Who was impressive in summer workouts? And what might we call Zach Boren if he gets a chance to take a snap or two this season? We look at that and more in this Ohio State football notebook.

One of the hallmarks of new Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer's offensive philosophy is to make sure the best players handle the ball as much as possible.

Wide receivers such as Philly Brown and Devin Smith along with tight end Jacab Stoneburner figure to be in the mix, but what happens at running back remains to be seen.

With versatile senior Jordan Hall sidelined by foot surgery this month and perhaps longer, there should be plenty of competition to earn touches.

Fullback Zach Boren said last week in Chicago he likes what he saw from running backs Carlos Hyde, Rodderick Smith, Brionte Dunn and Warren Ball during summer workouts.

Hyde, a junior, has the most game experience, while sophomore Smith has intrigued program insiders with strong practice performances that have yet to translate into production at game time. Dunn, a five-star recruit who earned Meyer's praise during winter workouts and spring practice, has been expected to compete for a role as a true freshman but might face discipline relating to a traffic stop in his hometown on late July.

Then there is Ball, a 6-2, 215-pound freshman who arrived on campus in June. He is a four-star prospect who committed to Ohio State nearly two years ago, but he seems to have slipped through the cracks when it comes to hype despite playing in the Buckeyes' backyard at Columbus DeSales.

"Warren Ball has surprised me like no other," Boren said. "He's out there competing every day, winning every race. He's never complaining, and I just think he'll be a great running back here. Those four guys are all pushing each other and competing." 

Although there is no shortage of options in the backfield, the one that is unavailable early is the most unique. The four healthy backs all measure at least 6-0 and range in weight from 214 to 235 pounds. Hall checks in at 5-9, 198.

Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino did not hesitate when asked which Ohio State running back is hardest to tackle.

"Carlos runs hard, but Jordan is harder to tackle, especially in the open field," Sabino said. "He's very elusive. He's a short, stubby guy. He's very hard to tackle. He's one of the guys you have to bring your feet with him because he's very slippery. He has that deceptive speed, he's not a blazer but he's faster than you think." 

A Single-Wing Tailback By Any Other Name...
Boren acknowledged he is one of the candidates to handle the ball after three years spent mostly leading the way for ball carriers as a fullback, but he was coy about just how his role will play out.

He was spotted taking direct snaps during spring practice, something that has led to speculation he could be Ohio State's version of Tim Tebow, the power running option in short-yardage situations during Meyer's national championship run in 2006.

"Coach Meyer still wants to run the ball even though we're in the spread offense," Boren said. "I think "'m going to be used in a lot of different ways this year, kind of like a hybrid. I don't think my role will truly come out until Sept. 1 against Miami. " 

When someone suggested he might get to show off his own version of the famous Tebow jump pass, Boren first acted as if he hadn't considered it before acknowledging he and his roommate had joked about it.

"Whew, I don't know," said Boren, a lefty like Tebow. "Who says I'm a wildcat quarterback yet?" 

The Pickerington (Ohio) Central product then had a request for the reporters gathered around him: Come up with a unique name if it all comes to pass.

"I was thinking like Wild Tiger or something like that," he said, referencing the nickname of his high school team. "It's got to be something manlier." 

Sophomore's Summer Successful
With 16 defensive linemen on scholarship, depth is not an issue for Ohio State this fall. That means competition for minutes figures to be fierce even with the coaching staff expected to continue to play as many as eight linemen on a regular basis.

Joel Hale, a sophomore who played sparingly last season, emerged from spring practice listed as Garrett Goebel's backup at nose guard, and teammate John Simon said he continued to push himself through the summer.

"He's one of the hardest workers we've got," Simon said. "He's always fired up for workouts. I know he's made it a point in his life to start eating a little bit healthier." 

"He's been doing a great job. The dedication that it takes to eat right and not eat junk food is probably tougher than the workouts really. He's lost a lot of body fat and gained a lot of muscles. He's gonna have a great year for us."

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