Ohio State redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Mike Hall doesn’t like talking about the past. Probably because the conversation is mostly about a season-long injury that limited his ability to help his teammates as best he could.
Hall suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter of the Buckeyes’ second game last season. At that point he had played seven quarters of football and tallied seven tackles, five tackles for loss, and two sacks.
He exploded on the scene nationally against Notre Dame, then continued to harass Arkansas State the next week like a bill collector who works on commissions.
Then came the shoulder injury. Hall missed week three against Toledo, but was back in the starting lineup against Wisconsin and Rutgers. The shoulder was clearly impacting his ability to impact the game, and he was limited to just a few tackles — with none coming in the backfield.
Then came the game at Michigan State, which showed Hall’s full pass-rushing potential, as well as what the Buckeyes were missing when he wasn’t on the field. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson decided to use Hall as a situational pass rusher in order to give his shoulder a break from the wear and tear of run defense. In just eight snaps on defense, Hall sacked MSU quarterback Payton Thorne four times. One of those sacks was overturned because of a penalty by a teammate, but it was clear that the Spartans had no answer for him.
Mike Hall then went the final seven games of the season without a tackle in the backfield. That’s not who he is as a player, which is probably another reason he doesn’t like to dwell on the past.
As to how he’s feeling now?
“Great,” he said this spring. “Over the injury, it’s a new year, new me. So just glad to be back in action and just playing hard.”
It is a new year, and it has now found Hall’s name popping up in 2024 NFL mock drafts. Most mock drafts are simply an exercise in obligation, but the flashes that people saw from Hall last year have created an indelible impression on everyone’s memory.
When he was healthy last year, he was in the backfield so often he had to file for dual-citizenship. When he wasn’t, he was just trying to do everything he could to not let his teammates down.
“It bothered him,” Larry Johnson said of the shoulder injury. “When you’re playing inside and you’ve got a shoulder injury, you can’t lock out. So now you’re playing with one arm. That’s tough to do to play the run. And it affected him. There’s no question about it. It affected him mentally. But now he’s healthy, he’s done a great job of rehabbing and making sure he’s strong to go.”
While Hall doesn’t like focusing on last year, that doesn’t mean he didn’t use it to drive him over the offseason. It wasn’t the way he wanted to close his first season as a starter, especially given the way he started it. Hall played just 77 snaps over the final five games, never seeing more than 19 snaps in any of those games. Meanwhile, his starting partner at defensive tackle Taron Vincent saw 81 snaps just in OSU’s final two games last year.
“Yeah, definitely. I’ve just got to use that as energy to fuel me and come back out here and try to get back to my normal self,” Hall said. “Just to be out there for my guys and come out here and motivate them to be the best teammate I could be for them.”
Hall’s mindset right now is exactly where he wants it. Focused on the here and now so that he’ll be at his best for his teammates when it matters most.
So what will a healthy Mike Hall bring to the Buckeye defense this year?
“You’ll just have to see,” he said, adding a knowing laugh.
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