California visits Ohio Stadium on Saturday, and the Buckeyes hope their offense will be loaded for bear.
Ohio State ended its 31-16 win over Central Florida last week with a depleted offensive backfield and missing key parts on its defensive line.
Head coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday night he expects reinforcements to be ready in time for the noon start time Saturday in Columbus.
After missing the first two games and all of preseason camp recovering from foot surgery, Jordan Hall is expected to play this weekend. Teammates said the senior running back has looked good in practice this week.
Meyer cautioned he is not sure yet how much time Hall will be able to handle in his first time back in game action but expressed confidence in Hall’s ability to hang onto the ball and execute his position in the Buckeyes’ new spread offense.
“He’s a veteran, so I’m not as secured about ball security as I would even a young player who has played a lot,” Meyer said.
“He had a great spring in our offense in our offense. He’s a football player. So we’re just making sure his hip flexor and hamstrings are in order because that’s the first thing that happens.”
Hall’s return comes at a crucial time for Ohio State with his backup Carlos Hyde out because of a knee injury sustained last week. It lessens the pressure on young running backs Brionte Dunn and Rod Smith to be ready for a major role this weekend, but Meyer sounded encouraged by the work they put in this week.
Smith, in particular, impressed his head coach to the point he was added to the punt block team. Meyer called that a breakthrough moment.
“You will understand once you get to know our program a little bit that that is gigantic,” Meyer said. “That means that everything is starting to get in order. You don’t just start in the beginning and go play tailback. That doesn’t happen.”
Meyer said he will not name a starter until Saturday from a group that also includes senior fullback Zach Boren.
“I’m still going to evaluate how they prepare,” Meyer said, “I’m very pleased with how they have done.”
On the other side of the ball, Ohio State will still be without sophomore Michael Bennett (groin), but fellow defensive end Nathan Williams is expected to be able to go. Williams, a senior coming off of microfracture knee surgery, played extensively in the season opener Sept. 1 but bounced back slowly and missed the second game of the season.
“Nathan Williams practiced today, so I anticipate he’ll play,” Meyer said.
Saturday also marks the return of Storm Klein. A senior linebacker from Newark, Ohio, Klein was benched for the first two games after missing all of preseason camp awaiting the resolution of a domestic violence charge filed against him in July. Klein accepted a plea deal that resulted in a conviction for disorderly conduct in late August, leading Meyer to reinstate him after talking to both Klein and the young woman involved in the incident.
“He handled it with much humility, which I imagined he would,” Meyer said. “I know Storm much better than I did in the past, and he’s done things the right way.”
Klein started 10 games at middle linebacker last season but missed much of spring practice with a pair of injuries and lost his job to sophomore Curtis Grant by the end of April.
His role Saturday was not specified.
Meyer also confirmed that Kyle Dodson, a true freshman offensive lineman from Cleveland Heights, had passed out due to dehydration at practice Tuesday but was fine shortly afterward.
Follow this writer on Twitter and find Buckeye Sports Bulletin on Facebook.