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Published: Sunday, 8/26/2012

Haden back on the field

Corner eager to play for UT

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
A highly recruited prospect out of high school, Jordan Haden, left, looks to start his college career with Toledo after two big injuries. A highly recruited prospect out of high school, Jordan Haden, left, looks to start his college career with Toledo after two big injuries.
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Jordan Haden has the pedigree, he passes the eyeball test, and his arrival prompted borderline pandemonium.

But can he play? That's the unanswered question surrounding the enigmatic University of Toledo cornerback as he approaches his anticipated college debut.

Nearly 20 months since his transfer incited an uproar around the Mid-American Conference, it remains to be seen if the import from University of Florida can make good on expectations that stem from his sharing bloodlines with an NFL star.

Due to injuries, a position change, and being forced to sit out last season, Haden's ability remains something of a mystery.

"I'm anxious to see," coach Matt Campbell said. "I think we're still learning what he can do consistently."

The initial review will come Saturday as Haden is confirmed to be on the travel squad that goes to Arizona for the opener.

Consistent, or some form of the word, was used several times by Campbell in a brief interview about Haden's prospects. For every occasion he turns heads, such as in a recent practice when he bulldozed receiver Alonzo Russell at the goal line, the sophomore Haden errs -- a reminder he hasn't played since he broke his ankle in the second week of his senior year of high school.

Haden, who recently was cleared to practice after breaking his foot in the spring, is not expected to start on defense at Arizona but will play on the kickoff and punt return units.

"My mom and dad haven't been able to see me play in so long," he said. "I just want to get on the field and show them how hard I've been working."

A four-star prospect who fielded offers from Georgia, Louisiana State, and Virginia Tech, Haden enrolled early at Florida but left August, 2010, to be closer to his brother Joe, a cornerback with the Cleveland Browns. Jordan, then a safety, was third on the depth chart.

When Jordan visits his brother, he seldom returns to Toledo empty handed. Air Jordans, T-shirts, and athletic shorts are among the benefits of having a brother contracted by Nike. The plushest gift, a Cadillac Escalade, prompted Jordan to call Joe, "the best big brother."

Not all of Joe's gifts are material. He also offers football wisdom.

"I think he is going to get his feet wet this season," Joe, a first-round pick in 2010, said in an email exchange. "He's a really good football player and he is really talented. One thing is that he's a really big hitter, so they're going to get a whole lot of hits out of him."

A third Haden, Josh, transferred to UT with Jordan, but fizzled away. Another brother, Jonathan, the youngest of five boys, is a highly sought prospect in the 2014 class. Hope that Jordan could help lure him to UT were dampened last week when Jonathan declared Ohio State his favorite.

Given the injuries he has sustained, and the time he has missed because of them, Jordan is content for now to make the travel squad. In time, the expectations he places on himself will become more aggressive.

"Having a brother in the NFL that also plays cornerback, I really just look at him and want to be something like him," he said.



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