The Ohio State backfield is likely to have a different rotation from recent weeks when the Buckeyes take on Indiana on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Head coach Luke Fickell declared tailback Jordan Hall doubtful because of a sprained ankle.
“I don’t think Jordan is going to make it,” Fickell said. “He hasn’t quite turned the corner with his ankle.”
Hall started three games earlier this season then served as the No. 2 tailback the past two contests upon the return of senior Dan Herron from a season-opening six-game suspension.
The junior from Jeannette, Pa., has rushed for 330 yards on 85 carries. He leads the Big Ten with 143.5 all-purpose yards per game this season and provides some versatility with his ability to line up in the slot as well, but the Buckeyes figure to miss his presence more on special teams.
Hall has been the primary punt and kick returner for most of the past two seasons, and he enters this week third in the conference in kickoff return average (30.2 yards) and fifth in punt return average (6.6 yards).
He suffered the injury last week on a 42-yard kickoff return that set up the Buckeyes’ stunning final touchdown drive in a 33-29 victory over Wisconsin.
Hall’s absence figures to mean a prominent role for Carlos Hyde, a sophomore who has been in and out of the lineup as his older teammates have served and returned from suspensions.
Hyde started the first three games and remained the No. 2 option at tailback until Herron returned. He enters the Indiana game as the Buckeyes’ leading rusher despite playing sparingly the past two games. He has 408 yards and five touchdowns on 78 carries.
“We want all these guys to be ready to be the starting tailback, and whether they end up getting the carries or not, you never know,” Fickell said. “But you’ve always got to be ready for your opportunity. I think that’s the thing that Carlos has done a good job of. He has kept his mind right. The situation has not been easy for him with the way he played against Nebraska, but you never know what your opportunity is going to arise. This could be a very good opportunity for him.”
Fickell said Rod Smith, a redshirt freshman who has practiced at linebacker for the past few weeks, could see some time in the backfield as well this week.
One player who will not get extra work because of Hall’s injury is Jaamal Berry. Fickell confirmed the university’s previous announcement Berry is suspended as a result of an assault and disorderly conduct charges filed against him Wednesday in Franklin County Municipal Court.
“Jaamal Berry has been suspended indefinitely right now. We’re going to continue to move forward and focus on those 100 guys they’ve still got up there. We want to make sure that’s who we’re talking about.”
He chose not to speculate on whether or not Berry will join the team at any point in the future.
Berry has only carried the ball three times for five yards this season, but he was the No. 2 kickoff returner.
With Hall and Berry both out, wide receivers Philly Brown, Chris Fields and Devin Smith are expected to fill in. Herron and Hyde also have some experience on kickoff returns.
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