Cavalier Corner

December 2018

Cavalier Corner is the publication just for UVa sports fans!

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 17 of 31

18 CAVALIER CORNER BY BRAD FRANKLIN L IKE MANY IN UVA'S FIRST recruiting class under Bronco Mendenhall, Bryce Hall first chose the Wahoos under a differ- ent coaching staff. And also like many in that 2016 group, he wasn't exactly heavily recruited. And yet, the Harrisburg, Pa., native fin- ished the regular season as not only a first- team All-ACC performer, but as of Nov. 29 he led the nation with 22 passes de- fended after putting together one of the most dominant third-year campaigns by a UVA cornerback in recent memory. The 6-1, 200-pounder emerged early in his Virginia career as some- one who fit Mendenhall's defense well. His consistent play in 2017, when he finished with three intercep- tions and 13 passes broken up, helped the Cavaliers get back to a bowl game for the first time in six years. But his attention to detail and work ethic allowed his career to take a huge step forward this season and helped push UVA to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2004-05. "Between classes, he's there [at the facility] as if it's a job," Mendenhall said. "There are notebooks and prepa- ration and food. He finds a spot and he sets up camp and he's there every minute he's not in class. His preparation is ex- emplary. He's demonstrating what I would love to have our entire team and the culture to be like of how important the games are and what it takes to be exceptional. He's giving a real story and a real model for what that looks like." "I think it's been a journey to get to where I'm at now," Hall explained. "I think origi- nally it took a lot of hours spent, just looking at things over and over again, and just kind of feeling almost stupid in a way just because you constantly look at things you don't understand. "But I think over time, just the con- stant preparation, the more time I've spent at this, the more I've grown. Literally I think you have to look at your preparation and the way you study your opponent like you're an investigator trying to solve a mur- der case. That's kind of my mindset." For hours and hours, Hall is inside the football offices at the McCue Center watch- ing footage and taking notes. Not only is he devouring film of the opponent, but he's watching film of himself and other UVA de- fensive backs in hopes of perfecting his craft. "Each week, we talk about cracking the code," he said. "It takes a lot of different forms, obviously film is one aspect of it. Practice is another. And then you just come in with a plan every week and just kind of keep chipping away at it. That's kind of how I take things." Most teams throughout UVA's regular sea- son shied away from testing the former Bishop McDevitt High School standout. During the 7-5 regular season, Hall has been credited with 59 tackles (3.5 for loss), two sacks, two interceptions and 20 passes broken up. "He's consistent in terms of what he con- tributes," Mendenhall said. "There is not a player on our team at any position, nor would there be more than probably four or five that I've ever coached, that are more diligent in their preparation than him." When Liberty came out throwing at Hall Nov. 10, it surprised Mendenhall. But Hall was thinking it might happen and he was ready. "I wasn't really as surprised because I knew they throw the ball a lot," he said. "I do like the opportunity it provides when people throw my way. And I believe that just makes me better, too, just trying to rise to the occasion every week. "And that just goes to show, you've al- ways got to be ready no matter who you play, what they've done in the past. You've always got to be ready because as soon as you're caught lacking, as soon as you fall asleep, that's when the ball comes your way. So that taught me a very valuable lesson: Always be ready, which I think I have been." Hall is a soft-spoken kid who would rather laugh and joke with his teammates than be in the spotlight. But he plays a position where he is often on an island and there's a part of him that has to be ready to execute even as the whole stadium watches intently. The fact that he leads the nation in passes defended is an accomplishment, but it's also something he's willing to poke fun at. "I kind of wish I had more interceptions, looking back at the PBUs," he said with a laugh. "Man, it's an honor to be up there … with some of the nation's best. But I think I had goals coming into this season and I had a vision for how I wanted to perform this year, and I feel like just having those goals in mind really helped me to kind of reach the level of perfor- mance I'm at right now." As many of Virginia's players do, Hall credits his coaches for bringing out the best in him since he's arrived on Grounds. "This coaching staff really instills in us to have high expectations," he explained. "And so I wanted to be up there. I want to be the best. I wanted to be an All-American. I wanted to set my mind on being … the best corner in the country. I wanted to be an efficient tackler. And I wanted to create turnovers that were going to help our team win. "And so, all the opportunities have been there for me. I think it helps, too, because I had a clear mission in mind that's helped me to really strive and attack those areas in practice and in the games that I think have led to the success. I think everything else is taking care of itself since I had kind of set those goals ahead of time." Mendenhall has said that the evolu- tion of fellow cor- nerback Tim Harris has been one of his favorite stories this season. A sixth-year senior who had lost ground at that spot in fall camp, Harris was able to change a lot of his habits and become much more reliable. While Mendenhall credits Hall for his role in that turnaround, Hall points to the impact the two have had on each other. HALL CAN BALL The Emergence Of Bryce Hall Has Been A Boon For UVA Hall ranked sixth on the team in tackles (59) at the end of the regular season, while his 22 passes defended (20 passes broken up and two interceptions) led the country going into the Dec. 1 weekend. PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA "Between classes, he's there [at the facility] as if it's a job. … His preparation is exemplary. He's demonstrating what I would love to have our entire team and the culture to be like of how important the games are and what it takes to be exceptional." HEAD COACH BRONCO MENDENHALL ON HALL

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Cavalier Corner - December 2018