Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall isn’t resting on last season’s accomplishments, which very likely would have made him an NFL Draft pick.
“What’s really important to know and understand and what these coaches have harped on really well is that if you dwell too much on the past and your past success, it can actually hurt you moving forward,” Hall said.
Hall led the nation last season with 22 pass breakups and draft experts everywhere declared him a first-round talent. But after Virginia’s 28-0 victory over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl, he announced he would return to Charlottesville for his senior season.
“My mindset is I came back here for a reason, and I’m going to be as hungry as I can possibly be,” he said. “If I’m not better than I was a year ago, then I’m not doing my job.”
In Saturday’s spring game, Hall notched the Cavaliers’ first turnover of this season. He ended the opening offensive series of the day after leaping to intercept a pass that floated down the sideline. It was the first of three turnovers forced by a defense that spent the offseason focused on creating more takeaways.
“It’s all about the ball. We always talk about it,” Hall said. “We’ve set goals to go plus-2, to have two more takeaways than the other team, because that’s going to give us a high percentage of winning every game.”
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall would like to see more turnovers, but he said that’s only part of why he’s glad Hall returned for his senior season.
“Bryce wants more for our program. He wants more for himself,” Mendenhall said. “He may have led the league in pass breakups, but many of those could have been intercepted. He has plenty of work to do in run support and tackling and some of the different route concepts, and then leadership. His role now is a different role, and that’s a different level of development.”
Hall couldn’t agree more. He may have broken up 22 passes last fall, but he only intercepted two.
“That’s what I’m working on,” Hall said. “Those are the game-changing moments, not just defending them but intercepting them.”
He also knows with Juan Thornhill and Chris Peace gone, he has to step into more of a leadership role.
“The biggest thing is not just holding knowledge I have inside but sharing it with other people and also leading by action,” Hall said. “Leading in drills, communicating and doing the right thing every day.”
In 2016, Hall started seven games as a true freshman. He has started every game the past two seasons, and Mendenhall isn’t buying the notion that his shutdown corner is missing out on anything by returning as a fourth-year.
“I think there’s value added when you leave after four years rather than three when you’re playing three in a row like that, especially when you’re someone like Bryce,” Mendenhall said.
Ron Counts covers University of Virginia athletics for The Daily Progress. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, (434) 978-7245, or on Twitter @Ron_CDPsports.