Marcus Hall has heard the talk about his improvement this spring, but he is intent on not letting it go to his head.
“I just kind of try not to listen to it because camp is not over,” he said Sunday. “I'm just trying to finish this camp strong and come out to the first game strong and kick some ass all year."
Hall won the starting right guard spot during spring ball and continues to hold it as the Buckeyes go through preseason camp this month, but he has been in this situation before.
He started the first five games there last season then went to the bench as the line was reshuffled to accommodate the return of Mike Adams from suspension. Adams reclaimed the left tackle position at which he had earned All-Big Ten honors in 2010, prompting a move of Andrew Norwell from left tackle to left guard. That displaced Jack Mewhort, who in turn switched from left guard to right side.
The benching was not the first setback of Hall’s time in Columbus. He played nine games – starting one – at tackle as a true freshman in 2009 but had to sit out 2010 because of a failure to complete academic responsibilities.
His return to the playing field last fall was marked by uneven play, so his benching was not a great surprise.
Now he is back with the mindset that he is in the starting lineup to stay.
The 6-5 Cleveland Glenville product was proud to say Sunday he weighed 314 pounds, down about 20 pounds from his heaviest point. Most of that progress has come in this calendar year – not coincidentally since the arrival of new head coach Urban Meyer and director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti.
"I was about 330 in January,” Hall said. “The new coaches came in and we got to work. It was just like, 'You're either good or you're not. Do it or you'll get left behind. Get with the program.’ "
That is just what he did, and new line coach Ed Warinner took notice. Warinner had positive words for Hall in the spring and recently called him the team’s most improved lineman during preseason camp.
Hall credited his teammates and the new training staff for helping him turn the corner.
"If you're just doing working out by yourself, it can be tough, but if I know I've got somebody to lean on like a receiver or a d-lineman, I can always depend on them to pull me through the workout,” he said, crediting specifically new starting center Corey Linsley and starting defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
Otherwise, there are few magic solutions to improving on the field. His progress has come simply from learning his assignments and showing up in better shape.
Hall and the rest of the linemen have taken to the more in-your-face approach of Warinner, who arrived in Columbus from Notre Dame in January.
"Coming off the ball and being aggressive, that's what coach likes,” Hall said. "It took a while for us to get that mindset, but now we're in the process of getting it. We know we've got to score every time we step out on the field."