COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The first practice back in action for Ohio State wasn't enough to guarantee Jordan Hall will make a return to the lineup.
It certainly gave Ohio State something to think about, though, delaying a decision on who will start in the banged-up backfield on Saturday against California for a couple more days.
The reviews were positive from both Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer and teammates after Hall was worked hard and watched closely on practice Wednesday. But the Buckeyes will wait to see how the senior running back feels on Thursday as he recovers from surgery in June to repair a torn tendon in his foot, and they'll continue weighing their options until shortly before kickoff against the Golden Bears.
"We’re going to name the starter on game day," Meyer said after the workout. "I’m still going to evaluate how they prepare. I’m very pleased with what they’ve done, you’ve got Bri’onte (Dunn), obviously. You’ve got Rod (Smith), then you’ve got Zach Boren and Jordan Hall is in the mix again.
"I think he’ll play Saturday, I’m just not sure how much."
Assuming Hall is healthy and ready to roll, the return of the projected starter would likely be a significant boost for a rushing attack that has relied heavily on quarterback Braxton Miller early in the season.
The freak injury that sidelined Hall in June was a big blow to Meyer as he installed his version of the spread offense, an attack that would give the veteran a prominent role as both a rusher and receiver in a hybrid position designed to take advantage of his speed and elusiveness. But instead of integrating himself into those plans during training camp, Hall spent much of August in a walking boot and on the sidelines waiting for his 10-week rehabilitation period to end.
Now that it's over, there's still a possibility he could be rusty after just practicing on Wednesday -- and that will factor in the decision for Meyer as he makes a choice between Hall, Dunn and Smith.
"(Hall) practiced today and he’s a veteran, so I’m just not as concerned about ball security as I would be with a young player who has not played a lot," Meyer said. "We hammered him a lot on ball security today, even after practice, and he had a good day today.
"Today was the first day. Yesterday he was just kind of running and running and he was in the pool last week just making sure everything is in order as far as his foot. I just talked to him and he said, ‘I feel decent.’ We’ll see how it goes as we finish our preparation."
At a minimum, Hall's return to the practice field was seemingly productive enough to extend a deadline for a decision at running back.
Klein suspension ends: The Buckeyes do know that senior linebacker Storm Klein will be available after his two-game suspension for his offseason arrest expired last week.
But like Hall, how much he might play remains unclear.
"He’s back, he’ll play in this game," Meyer said. "I don’t know how much, that’s up to (defensive coordinator) Luke (Fickell), but he’s been cleared and he’s worked hard.
"Handled this with much humility, which I would have imagined he would. I know Storm much better than I have in the past, and he’s handled things the right way."