Mike Hall Showing “Crazy” Potential At Defensive Tackle As Larry Johnson Expects “Great Things” From the Redshirt Freshman

By Griffin Strom on August 19, 2022 at 11:35 am
Mike Hall
Adam Cairns – Columbus Dispatch

Mike Hall didn’t see the field much last season. That’s about to change.

Playing in just 35 snaps across four games as a true freshman, the 53rd-ranked high school recruit in the 2021 class took a redshirt year as he adjusted to the next level. Ahead of his second season in Columbus, it appears Hall has adjusted plenty.

Make no mistake, Hall won’t be thrust into increased playing time out of necessity. The opportunities he receives this season will be hard-earned, given the talent backed up in Larry Johnson’s defensive line room. But by all accounts, Hall looks primed to make the most of whatever chances he sees in 2022 as he continues to impress coaches and teammates during the preseason.

“I always laugh when Mike Hall goes out there as a three. I mean, come on dude,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said Monday after practice. “Geez, that's as good a three as I ever saw in my life. He ain't no three.”

Asked Tuesday why Hall is on the third-string defensive line, Johnson nearly cut a reporter off before he could finish the question.

“Well he's not with the threes. That was just in jest, I think. You got to read what he was saying,” Johnson said. “He has been a three to start out because of the guys (in front of him on the depth chart), but he's no longer in the threes. Mike's worked with the ones and twos and he's got a chance to do something real special. He's had a great camp. He's had a great camp for us, he really has. He's come out, he's really gotten stronger and he's gotten bigger. He's fast, he's athletic and we're hoping for great things for Mike, we really are.”

The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Ohio native possesses the versatility to play either tackle position for the Buckeyes, and Johnson said he’s used Hall at both spots in fall camp as Ohio State tries to find a place for him in the rotation.

Johnson compared Hall to three previous starting Ohio State nose tackles on Tuesday, and said creating pressure on opposing quarterbacks may be his most natural gift.

“I think his biggest asset is he can rush the passer. I mean he's really got quick hands, quick body. We can move him at the three-technique and he can rush from there at some times,” Johnson said. “So we've got to plan how we're going to use him, but I think he has a little bit of (DaVon Hamilton and Tommy Togiai in him). He's really quick off the line of scrimmage. Scary in space when he's in short space, small areas where can get off the ball. I think that's huge, a little bit BB (Landers) like, but stronger. But he also brings some pass rush technique that I think is critical.”

Hall is one of a number of underclassmen at the defensive tackle position who will try to push program veterans for playing time this season. Even with now-departed tackles Haskell Garrett and Antwuan Jackson on the team last season, returning Buckeyes Taron Vincent, Ty Hamilton and Jerron Cage all managed to log at least 230 snaps last year.

“Mike, his potential is crazy. He’s learning. Last year he was just trying to learn how to play college football, you know? But this year, you can see it in practice. Mike is different.”– Tyleik Williams on Mike Hall

The lone true freshman defensive tackle to see significant snaps in 2021 was Tyleik Williams, who finished second on the team to Garrett with five sacks a year ago. Given that level of production, Williams is the most hyped second-year tackle on the Buckeye roster heading into the new season.

But even Williams is raving about what he’s seen from Hall as fall camp reaches its halfway mark.

“Mike, his potential is crazy. He's learning,” Williams said. “Last year he was just trying to learn how to play college football, you know? But this year, you can see it in practice. Mike is different. Twitchy, fast – anything you can name – strong. All of them.”

Hall and Williams are two reasons why Wilson couldn’t stop showering the Ohio State defensive line with praise following the Buckeyes’ scrimmage last weekend. Wilson likened the unit to the one Johnson helmed in 2017 when Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Chase Young all finished with anywhere from 3.5 to 8.5 sacks.

“I mean they're deep and they just keep coming at you in waves and they just keep coming over the walls,” Wilson said. “They're playing with some confidence and playing behind their pads. My first year here, you just felt like Tyquan and Sam and Chase – you just felt those guys. I don't know if there's anyone individually as good as a couple of those superstars, but you just feel the defensive presence.”

Wilson may have specifically named defensive ends, but Garrett and Williams proved last season that defensive tackles can lead the Buckeye line in sack production in their own right. That’s something Hall and the rest of Ohio State’s tackles will hope to replicate in 2022.

If Johnson is to rotate 12 players on his line this season, as he said on Tuesday, that list will have to include a couple of players without much prior on-field experience at Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ longtime defensive line coach doesn’t sound the least bit concerned about that prospect.

“Some of the young players have the ability (to be elite), they just haven't hit the field yet,” Johnson said. “There's some guys that's gonna play in the fall you haven't seen yet, and you haven't seen them practice and see what they can do. And I'm looking forward to seeing those guys play because they've been really good.”

Given the lack of opportunities Hall received last year and the promise he’s shown this preseason, he figures to be chief among the mix of young talent Johnson alluded to.

View 43 Comments