Going into this year Leon Hall was anticipated to be one of the better Cornerbacks to comeout of Michigan in 10 years. A three year starter at the beginning of the season, Hall's performance this year, like the other members of the defense, was up in the air. Hall played well enough to warrant 2nd Team All Big Ten in 2005 but any of his accomplishments were overshadowed by Michigan's 7-5-make-you-want-to-jump-out-a-window season. The entire defense played terribly in 2005 and its poor performance reflected badly on everyone associated with it. We knew he'd be good, but really weren't sure how good.
The media was all over Hall at the start of the season, proclaiming him the best cover corner in the Big Ten. And for once the Media was right. Hall left Michigan as the Wolverines leader in pass break-ups and 4th on the Wolverines All-Time interception list.
At season's end Hall was announced as another of Michigan's consensus All-American cornerbacks, joining Marlin Jackson in 2004 and Charles Woodson in 1997. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back) and Bronko Nagurski Award (top defensive player) in 2006. While he didn't win the Thorpe or Nagurski, he certainly warranted serious consideration. During the season, Hall effectively took away one side of the passing field. He was good in run support and was one of Michigan's best tacklers.
Strengths: Tackling, Positioning, Body Control, Reading the Play, Break on the Ball, Knowledge of Game, Good on the Jam
The reasons Hall finished his career at Michigan as its leader in pass breakups are enumerated above. Hall was rarely out of position this past year and always seemed to be within an inch of a deflection or interception. When the ball eluded his fingers, the receiver didn't. Save the OSU and USC games where Hall was literally on a 10 second island, there were never yards after catch by those he was covering. He was keenly aware of what type of coverage he was in and used it to his advantage.
When faced with speed, Hall was capable of jamming his opposite at the line and keeping up with him after the jam. The thing you never saw from Hall all year was stumbling or trouble making a turn. He has a fluidity and balance in his motions that seems to keep him on his toes even in the harshest of conditions or cuts. Hall has excellent closing speed on catches made in front of him and has the strength to bring down larger receivers on the gallop.
Weakness: Lacks Top End Speed and an Afterburner
Where Hall struggled the most was against Ted Ginn and Dwayne Jarret. While Hall is fast, he ain't Ted Ginn fast. If memory serves the only time he got flat out torched last year was by Ginn, in a straight up who's faster run the end zone (not surprisingly Michigan's Safety help was nowhere to be seen).
Sometimes Hall's knowledge of the coverage he was in worked to his detriment. Hall was head, shoulders, and torso above the rest of his coverage crew at Michigan. When Hall was beat on deep balls it was usually the result of Michigan's safeties taking poor angles or missing their assignments.
While Hall has good closing speed he doesn't have that extra gear that the best of the best have. He'll make up ground on fast guys, but not a lot. Unless the receiver is some ungainly Minnesota boy, don't expect Hall to track him down out of nowhere.
Mel Kiper sums Hall up relatively well:
On instincts and fluidity, Hall is one of the best corners I've seen. The only true knock on Hall is his top end speed. Hall struggled a little against Ted Ginn and struggled mightily against Dwayne Jarrett. In his defense, it wasn't until the second half of the Rose Bowl that Hall got torched along with the rest of the Michigan defense.
At this point Hall is rated by Rivals as the 18th player to be taken in the draft. Scout felt that Hall's performance during the pre-Senior Bowl workouts hurt his draft prospects. Rising to the challenge:
In terms of the defensive backs in this draft class Hall is the clearly the best. Human Concussion Machine Reggie Nelson gets the pub for his big hits, but for pure coverage Hall's the man.
He has his flaws, but what cornerback not named Deion Sanders doesn't? Hall is a great get for team smart enough to draft him.