augusta free press news

UVA D needs shutdown game from senior corner Bryce Hall

Bryce HallThe UVA secondary has been, not surprisingly, strong against the pass, but actually not quite as strong as it was a year ago.

Virginia ranked second in the ACC in pass-defense efficiency in 2018 with a 107.6 opponent passer rating, and was also second in pass yards per game allowed, at 183.0.

The pass yards per game allowed is up a tick through four games in 2019, to 188.8, fourth in the ACC, but the pass-defense efficiency is up to 116.2, fifth in the ACC.

OK, I’m quibbling. The sample size is small, the numbers are close.

Let’s just say there’s room for at least slight improvement, and why not this week, with the ‘Hoos going on the road to face #10 Notre Dame on Saturday?

Irish QB Ian Book is putting up nice numbers, averaging 276.0 yards per game, completing 61.7 percent of his passes, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

Book was right on those numbers, by and large, in Notre Dame’s 23-17 loss at #3 Georgia last weekend, going 29-for-47 (61.7 percent) for 275 yards and two TDs, with two INTs.

A key for the UVA secondary will be senior cornerback Bryce Hall, who is second in the ACC in passes defensed, with four, after leading the nation in 2018 with 21.

Hall is the ultimate shutdown corner, taking away half of the field from opposing offensive coordinators and QBs in their planning and play-calling.

Expect to see Hall match up with Notre Dame wideout Chase Claypool, a big (6’4”, 229-pound), physical target who leads the Irish in 2019 with 15 catches and a 17.1-yards-per-catch average, after hauling in 50 balls a year ago.

This is the kind of game that Hall, who was talked about as a potential first-round NFL Draft pick if he had chosen to forego his final year of eligibility a year ago, came back for.

“I feel like I can play a lot better,” Hall told reporters Monday. “I’m my biggest critic, and I expect a lot out of myself. There’s a lot of games left to play. I’m working fiercely to try and improve each week and look at myself in how I can improve. I’m capable of playing at a high level, and my effort can go to another level.”

It will have to, if UVA is going to have a chance at the upset in front of 80,000 in South Bend on Saturday.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall addressed what he thinks Hall is probably looking for from himself as his senior season plays out.

“Ultimately, he’ll probably gauge coming back by interceptions and by production personally, but what he’ll most likely gain or will measure his coming back is, how is our team doing? Right now we’re 4-0, and he’s helping us play at a really high level. That alone would be reason to come back probably, if you asked him,” Mendenhall said.

Story by Chris Graham