Another Aaron Donald? Ohio State teammates compare Michael Hall Jr. to the NFL star

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

Michael Hall Jr. has started exactly one game for Ohio State, so any comparison with arguably the best defensive player in the NFL must be tempered with that disclaimer.

However…

The redshirt freshman defensive tackle from Streetsboro made an immediate impact in Ohio State’s 21-10 victory Saturday over Notre Dame in the season-opener. After the Fighting Irish’s 54-yard gain on the game's first snap, Hall made the next two tackles, the second for a 2-yard loss, and the Buckeyes forced Notre Dame to settle for a field goal.

He later ended the Irish’s final possession of the night with a sack.

Hall’s performance was no surprise to the Buckeyes, who’ve watched him blossom from a player who saw action in only four games in 2021. What stands out most about the 6-2, 290-pound Hall is his quickness off the snap.

“He's got explosion like wide receivers and DBs,” senior defensive end Zach Harrison said.

“Maybe Aaron Donald, is what I’ve been saying,” interjected sophomore J.T. Tuimoloau.

Donald led the Los Angeles Rams to victory in the Super Bowl last year and is regarded as the NFL’s most dominant defensive player.

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“That’s a crazy comparison, but I was thinking about that the other day,” Harrison responded. “He's a small nose guard, but he's not weak. He's got heavy hands. He's strong.”

Just then, cornerback Cam Brown walked over to Harrison and Tuimoloau. He was told they were talking about Hall.

“That’s a dog right there – Aaron Donald to me,” Brown said as Harrison and Tuimoloau laughed that Brown had invoked the same name.

True stardom requires more than one game, a point coach Ryan Day emphasized, but Hall’s performance certainly didn’t feel like a fluke.

"He's just a special player," Harrison said. He's one of those guys when you see him do stuff on the field, you acknowledge, especially being around for a while, that not everybody can do that."

Several of Michael Hall's teammates have compared the Ohio State tackle to NFL 2020 Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald of the Rams.

Matt Jones fought through fever

Matt Jones has waited a long time to be a starter for Ohio State, so the fifth-year right guard wasn’t going to let something like illness keep him out of the Notre Dame game.

Jones said he was sick last week and had a 102-degree fever on Friday night. With the help of extra hydration, including intravenous fluids, he was able to gut it out.

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“I felt very fatigued, but it was all right,” he said.

Enokk Vimahi replaced him at the end of Ohio State’s 95-yard touchdown drive, but Jones played almost the entire game.

“It was really just about staying positive, knowing you have a job to do and you’re not going to let your brothers down,” Jones said.

Ohio State right guard Matt Jones battled illness to play for the Buckeyes in Saturday's game against Notre Dame.

Wypler looks ready to play

Center Luke Wypler left the stadium wearing a walking boot after Saturday’s game, but Day said he is likely to play against Arkansas State.

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“He's had a good week,” Day said. “He's been practicing so we should be good there. We'll continue to evaluate him.”

If Wypler is unable to play, Jones would slide over to center and Vimahi would play right guard, or Jakob James would fill in at center.

Day did not give an injury update Thursday on wide receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Julian Fleming.

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