Vince Hall: Controlled Aggression
by Chris Horne
TSL Extra, Issue #20
Following in the footsteps of two of the highest recruited linebackers ever in the state of Virginia may be tough, but by no means does Western Branch’s (Chesapeake, VA) Vince Hall fall short in comparison.
Last year, Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham brought the best of the best in college football to the state of Virginia. This year, Vince Hall promises to do the same. So far, Hall has been rated in ESPN’s Tom Lemming's Top 100 rising seniors list. In addition, he was rated #2 in the Roanoke Times Top 25 juniors list. As the local and national praise suggests, Vince Hall has the game to make a strong impact at the Division I level.
At 6’1", 235 pounds, Hall has an imposing and intimidating physical frame. He runs about a 4.5 or 4.6 in the forty that, according to Western Branch Head Coach Lewis Johnston, does not decrease with pads. Hall displays quick feet, giving him the ability to make sharp cuts and close in fast on any ball carrier.
According to Hall, his physical attributes are only part of what makes him extremely attractive to the swarms of college coaches.
"I try to be both methodical and aggressive," said Hall of his playing style. "I try to recognize what is going on and react to it. I like using my mind."
Coach Johnston agreed with his All-American’s assessment. While he knows Hall has the complete package, he also can point out what his star needs to work on for next season.
"He has a wonderful instinctive nature," said Johnston. "He has a knack for reading the play and is truly a student of the game. He makes adjustments on the run, during the play. Plus he is one of the fastest players on the field with a great quick start. Vince is an outstanding closer as well.
"I would say, if anything, he needs to work a little on his pass coverage technique."
While one can learn better technique, instincts and game intelligence are those natural characteristics that cannot be taught in any football camp or learned from any coach. For an example of Hall’s excellent football intelligence, one needs to look no further than last season’s game versus Indian River. Coach Johnston still vividly remembers what happened in that game, when Hall single-handedly scored two defensive touchdowns.
"Early in the game, the Indian River quarterback went back to pass," said Johnston. "Vince was sort of caught in no-man's land, and they floated a swing pass right over his head. We still made the play, but safe to say, he was frustrated with what happened. Later in the game, they tried the same play. Vince recognized the play, made an interception and returned it for a touchdown. They tried it again after that, this time on the other sideline, and Vince read it and returned it again for his second touchdown.
"It was a great example of his recognition and intelligence on the field."
Like most defensive players, Hall loves to make hits. It is his great tackling technique, however, that separates him from the average defender. When the team needs a clutch tackle, Hall likes to step up and make that tackle. Unfortunately for Western Branch opponents, Hall rarely misses a tackle in these or any other situation. This is an asset his coach appreciates more than witnessing the occasional bone-jarring hit.
"He enjoys the contact but is not necessarily the biggest hitter," said Johnston. "Vince makes the sure tackle, not necessarily the spectacular one. He is a great tackler. He almost never misses a tackle."
While Hall wants to be consistent, he also appreciates any opportunity to lay the lumber to any offensive player. Although people may not see him make brutal hits very frequently, Hall stresses that he can make a pretty good hit every now and then.
"I may not be consistently one of the biggest hitters, but I can hit people…no question about it," said Hall of his tackling ability. "I like making the big tackles."
Equally as impressive as a clutch tackle or football award is Hall’s personality off the field. Well respected by coaches, teachers, and teammates alike, Hall is an exemplary person for his school. According to coach Johnston, Hall has an outstanding character, much of which he credits to a solid family background.
"He is a charismatic personality," said Johnston. "Everybody loves Vince. He is well liked by his teammates. His parents did a wonderful job teaching him respect and friendliness. He is just a solid, good kid who is enthusiastic and passionate about what he does.
"And he plays the game of football the way it should be played…with class."
Hall’s relationship with his teammates is one of friendship and respect. A leader on the team, his teammates recognize Hall as a class individual. A few teammates expressed their respect for Hall during a last year’s post-season meeting.
At the end of last season, Coach Johnston called a private team meeting. The meeting included the coaches and all of his rising senior players including Hall, and they were there to discuss the expectations and goals of the rising senior class for next year’s team. Number one on the agenda was not the summer workout program or discussing what happened the previous year. The number one issue coach Johnston wanted to address was jealousy.
"I told the players that, while many of them had the opportunity and potential to play college football, one player would be the center of attention throughout [all of next year]," said Johnston. "I posed the question, ‘Is everyone in this room going to be OK with that?’ And, almost immediately, one of our players stood up. He said, ‘Coach, that is not going to be an issue. If the player was cocky and a jerk, we might care…but the player is Vince.’ To me, that is a great example of how people feel about him."
Hall is careful not to get arrogant over all of his publicity. Crediting his success to others, Hall realizes he has needed some help to reach this level. He is grateful for the position he is in and for everything he has accomplished.
"Some guys [in my position] can be cocky," said Hall of his status. "I attribute much of my success to my teammates, to my linemen. Off the field, we are all friends."
In the classroom, Hall focuses greatly on his academics. He has already easily qualified for freshmen eligibility, and has taken honors classes throughout his high school career. Realizing the importance of education, Hall has put great energy into academics since his freshman year at Western Branch.
"He is a good student – a very serious student," said coach Johnston. "He has been real serious about his academics since his first year here."
Education is a major factor in Hall’s choice of schools. When the recruiting process is over, what each school has to offer academically may ultimately sway his decision on where to play football.
"Education is very important," said Hall of his decision making process. "What the school has to offer education-wise is definitely a plus. I don’t have a preference for a major just yet or anything, but the school must offer a good education."
Even with so many schools recruiting him (over 50 colleges have expressed interest), Hall has been able to narrow down the field a bit. Recently, he visited the Penn State football camp. Penn State, along with Virginia Tech and Maryland, have been consistently mentioned with Hall. Early on, it appears Hall may have a preference to stay closer to home.
When asked for a top five, he had a slightly changed, more regional-friendly list. Unlike predecessors Brooks and Parham, however, it appears Hall will not be continuing his football career at the University of Virginia. Recently, the Cavaliers were eliminated from the recruiting process.
"My top five right now are [in no particular order] Virginia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee," said Hall. "Those are my top five at the moment."
For Hokie fans, thoughts have persisted that the relationship between coach Johnston and the Virginia Tech coaching staff may have been affected recently with the transfer of former Western Branch star Keith Burnell to Delaware. Many fans were concerned that ill-will from the Burnell situation may translate negatively with the recruitment of Vince Hall. Hokie fans need not worry about that situation having any effect on Hall’s decision. According to coach Johnston, the relationship will not be a factor.
"My relationship with Virginia Tech is not an issue," said Johnston. "Coach Stinespring and I are good friends, and I have tremendous respect for coach Beamer. My role with Vince’s recruitment is that of a counselor. If he has a question, I will answer. Past situations are not an issue.
"Tech has always been high on his list," Johnston continued. "They have always been mentioned in his top 3. He knows the coaches and he knows and likes the campus."
Hall currently has no timeline on when he will make a decision. He had expressed earlier a desire to wait until the February signing date to make a decision. Recently, his thought process has changed slightly.
"I wanted to wait it out [until February] at first," said Hall. "But I may commit early. If I am sure of where I want to go with no doubts, I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t commit early."
Hall plans to take visits during the fall and possibly early summer. Nothing has been officially scheduled at this point. He projects as an outside linebacker at the collegiate level.