Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Which under-the-radar player were you most impressed with on Saturday?
Jami’s Take: Michael Hall Jr.
During Ohio State’s season-opening win against Notre Dame in Columbus, it became clear that the Buckeyes had some secret weapons and surprises up their sleeves.
Our highly anticipated first look at Jim Knowles’ new defense gave us a glimpse of what could very well be the real deal. If they are, I expect defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. to be a big part of the reason.
After playing just 35 defensive snaps last season, Hall, a redshirt freshman, wasted no time making his presence known in his first game as a Buckeye starter.
The Fighting Irish opened the game with a big 54-yard gain. But the 6-2,. 290-pound Hall was unfazed. He went on to record the next two tackles, including one for a 2-yard loss that forced Notre Dame to settle for a field goal.
Hall, who said he only learned he would be starting a few days before the game, was absolutely relentless and left everything on the field. His explosiveness was a key factor in his recording four tackles (two tackles for a loss) and the sack that put the final nail in the Notre Dame coffin.
On ND’s final possession of the game, Hall’s 11-yard sack forced the Irish to punt, giving the Buckeyes the ball and the opportunity to run out the clock.
No one had really been talking about Hall prior to Saturday’s game. That certainly isn’t the case anymore.
His teammates have already begun comparing him to Aaron Donald, the defensive tackle for the LA Rams who is widely considered the NFL’s most dominant defender. Senior defensive end Zach Harrison, sophomore J.T. Tuimoloau, and cornerback Cam Brown each made that comparison to the Columbus Dispatch after Saturday’s game.
Consider this: He has started one game, and already he is being compared by multiple guys to the best defensive player in the NFL. That’s high praise.
While it certainly sets a high bar for Hall for the rest of the season, he seems hungry to prove himself. Knowles said that throughout camp, Hall was a force to be reckoned with, with the offensive linemen regularly providing feedback that he was the hardest guy to block.
Hunger + natural talent like that? That’s a dangerous combo.
All of this should definitely be taken with a grain of salt given that Hall has only started one game, but it seems both his teammates and coaches believe he can be a standout throughout this season. And if Saturday’s show is any indication, they just might turn out to be right.
Matt’s Take: Jesse Mirco
There were tons of unexpected stars for me in last Saturday’s 21-10 win over Notre Dame, including Jami’s pick Michael Hall Jr., but also safety Lathan Ransom (who earned himself a starting role), Miyan Williams, Tommy Eichenberg, Donovan Jackson, Paris Johnson Jr., and more. And while their under-the-radarness might vary based on player and how much we were paying attention to training camp conversations, to me, there is still one player that outshines them all: Ohio State punter Jesse Mirco.
With Jim Tressel and his 2002 national championship-winning team in the building, it was poetic that the Buckeyes’ most oft-overlooked position had an opportunity to shine. The second-year player from Australia was asked to punt the ball away five times and four of those were downed at or inside the 13-yard line, including two through that were marked dead at the 5. His punts averaged 45 yards and two came in at exactly 50 yards in length.
In a ball-control, eat-the-clock type of contest, having a punter who can flip the field like Mirco can is invaluable. Four of his punts led to subsequent ND punts, and only twice did the Irish advance past their own 35 on those drives.
I am certainly not going to go as far as The Senator and claim that the punt is the most important play in football, but there is immense value in having a punter who pin opponents deep in their own territory. In 2021, Mirco only punted 31 times, and therefore did not qualify for official national ranking, and I’m totally fine with him having a light workload.
But, it seems like he has upped his game in his second year stateside. Last year, 17 of his 31 punts (54.8%) were downed inside the 20. Based on a very small one-game sample size, it looks like he is on pace to have a [pulls out abacas and takes off shoes to crunch the numbers] 80% of his punts downed inside the opponents’ 20.
I was not expecting that type of punting production from him, mainly because I didn’t think he would punt that much this year. But, knowing that he is cable of completely changing the game with his foot is a good piece of knowledge to have in the back of your mind when games call for just such a weapon.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Jami: Michael Hall Jr.
Matt: Jesse Mirco