After each underwent shoulder surgeries in January, Ohio State left guard Michael Jordan and wide receiver K.J. Hill haven’t been able to practice with their teammates this spring.
Those injuries haven’t stopped them, however, from doing what they can to establish themselves as leaders for the Buckeyes’ 2018 offense.
On an offense that is replacing three of its top leaders from last season in J.T. Barrett, Billy Price and Jamarco Jones, Hill and Jordan are among the returning players who will be expected to lead Ohio State’s offense this season.
Jordan, a true junior who is a third-year starter at left guard, is expected to be one of the leaders of the offensive line along with left tackle Isaiah Prince, who is also a third-year starter.
The Buckeyes are loaded with experience at wide receiver, also including fifth-year seniors Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon, but Hill – a redshirt junior who rotated with Campbell at slot receiver last season, and is expected to do so again this season – should also be among the players who other offensive players look up to.
Jordan has been sidelined this spring after undergoing what he described as minor labrum surgery in January. Hill, meanwhile, underwent rotator cuff surgery – surgery that became necessary after he injured his shoulder while trying to field a punt in the Cotton Bowl – in January. Both players are restricted from contact this spring as a result. That said, both players expect to make a full recovery in time for summer workouts, and they have still been finding ways to work out this spring.
One way the injured Buckeyes have been staying in shape, Jordan said, is by racing each other on stationary bikes – an idea devised by Ohio State director of sports performance Mickey Marotti – after which the winner receives a Gatorade while the loser has to pull a tire around the practice field. Jordan says he has only had to pull the tire once. Hill has had to pull the tire at least once, as evidenced at the conclusion of one Ohio State practice earlier this month:
K.J. Hill pulling a tire while wearing a sling. Hill had rotator cuff surgery on his shoulder in January. pic.twitter.com/Lxrio6UdYD— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) March 8, 2018
Jordan said last week that he has recently been able to start running again, as he has regained most of the range of motion in his shoulder, and has also been able to start doing some lifting in the weight room. Hill, who met with the media in early March, said he has been doing everything he can physically and rehabbing hard.
While they have been limited physically, however, Jordan and Hill both said they have been putting in work in the film room and taking mental reps in practice in order to stay mentally sharp and prepare themselves for the season ahead.
"I have to go in the receiver room and do film work and stuff like that, so I can stay in tune with that and enhance that in my game too," Hill said.
Jordan and Hill have also been watching their teammates participate in practice and trying to help them from the sidelines however they can.
"Since I can’t really participate in practice, I try to help guys with the type of sets they take, what they can do better on the plays they mess up and even like mentally, just tell them that you got to focus on the next play," said Jordan, who said he believes the other offensive linemen are looking to him more for leadership this spring now that Jones and Price are gone.
Hill and Jordan both said that they have not only tried to help the younger players at their respective positions this spring, but also older players as well.
"I (watch the younger players) all the time, and then if I see older guys that need some help or something, I’ll coach them up too, tell them what I saw," Hill said.
While being unable to participate in spring practice is never ideal for a player’s development, Jordan and Hill both have the advantage of having two years of playing experience under their belts. But while Jordan and Hill can probably afford some extra time on the sidelines, they’ve still felt like they’ve needed to continue finding ways to try to improve themselves and their teammates this spring.
"The grind don’t ever stop," Jordan said. "Even though I’m injured, I’m always trying to find small things I can do to get myself better."
Jordan and Hill aren’t the only players sidelined by injuries this spring who could ultimately play key roles for the Buckeyes this fall. Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah and linebacker Dante Booker are also out this spring after undergoing shoulder surgeries, while offensive lineman Branden Bowen – who started six games at right guard last year – continues to recover from a broken leg. Linebacker Tuf Borland, who started nine games at middle linebacker last season, is out indefinitely after suffering an Achilles injury earlier this spring. Those players have not yet been made available to the media this spring.