Vanderbilt has quietly put together a talented secondary this year. They have a couple of talented seniors including cornerback Andre Hal and safety Kenny Ladler. Hal has been a player with a number of tools and shown flashes of what he can be, but has yet to put it all together. As a junior, the Commodore corner had 36 solo tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, and 14 pass deflections.
Vanderbilt recently had Casey Hayward go in the second round and has had a terrific start to his career, so there may be even more attention on the Vanderbilt secondary from the NFL and scouting community. They play a mix of zone and off man that is similar to what a few teams in the NFL run that make their players attractive for their scheme. Hal looks the part and shows ability to play the part of a great corner but part of the reason he has so much potential going forward is that he has not shown to be a great cover corner and is not a great run defender or tackler. His combination of physical talents and the technique he does have could have him as a day three prospect pick and if he can play up to his potential and improve with his technique, he could make a move up draft boards, but where he is positioned on boards may vary dramatically as he is a far more capable zone cover than he is a man corner.
Vitals & Build
Hal is listed at 6’1” 186lbs with a good build and speed for the position, though if those numbers are accurate, he is still pretty thin. He has good feet, but he can get quicker in and out of his cuts when he is mirroring opponents. There appears some stiffness in his hips at times and he does a much better exploding forward than he is flipping and running. Hal appears to still have potential to continue gaining strength and if he is legitimately 6’1”, he is going to need to get heavier. It would be surprising if he is not over 190lbs by the time of the NFL Draft process.
For all of his physical traits, they rarely show up as a tackler for Hal. He is strong with speed, but he plays much smaller than he is against ball carriers and is perfectly content to dive at them instead of making a legitimate effort. There is nothing to suggest he cannot be a great tackler and be a powerful, physically imposing tackler, but the effort is not there at this point.
There are times when he seems to really embrace the ability to hit opponents, but they are few and far between and far more often, he is content to let someone else make the play.
Against the run, Hal runs into some issues both in terms of effort and maintaining his responsibility. There is no question he has the physical capability to be a good run defender at times will demonstrate it. He can attack downhill and make good tackles on the ball carrier from good angles and with proper form when he wants. There are also times when he will dive at the ball carrier’s legs and try to trip them up, especially if there is a blocker in front of him, which can have mixed results. When it works, it is a sigh of relief because should he fail, not only has he missed the tackle but the ball carrier still has a blocker in front of him.
Normally, when presented with a blocker, he tends to play it like zone where he does not engage the blocker but forces the runner to slow down allowing his teammates to catch up and make the play. This can be an effective tactic but there are certainly times that Hal should use his strength to take on and beat the block from a receiver. He is smart when it comes to taking on an offensive lineman by going low and at least taking them out of the play.
Hal needs to do a better job with his angles and maintaining his outside contain. For instance, he was caught sleeping against Florida on an option read where he followed the handoff up the middle when he was called to blitz; a play he was never going to be able to make. He went inside taking himself out of position, when he should have seen where the play was going and kicked back outside to protect against the outside run, but assumed the play was inside and sort of geared down thinking the play was more or less done. The problem was quarterback had kept the ball and ran where Hal had been, so with no one there to stop him, so he was able to go all the way and score. In certain respects, it was the perfect play call against that defense but had Hal just stayed focused and kept with the play, he would have been able to make a better play. The defense put him in a terrible position, but he made it worse.
When it comes to making tackles in the running game, his effort is inconsistent. When presented with a defenseless or vulnerable receiver, Hal will show off all of his strength but can be frustratingly sheepish at times when it comes to taking on a ball carrier. Hopefully, he puts more effort into that area of his game this year.
Hal prefers to play facing the line of scrimmage as much as possible. He is often playing in off man coverage but will also line up on his man as well. He has experience both on the outside and in the slot as he plays inside when teams put twins on the field. Hal seems to prefer to play with an inside leverage and force receivers outside because of his overall strength and length for the position, which makes sense.
Hal has a fantastic backpedal and has quick feet and the ability to adjust based on where his opponent is going. Occasionally, he will get slightly tall and get off balance with his weight going too far back. He is not always able to transition to get his motion to go forward when he gets too tall as a result. Hal is effective in his ability to flip his hips and run with receivers but just needs more opportunities to do it, so he feels more comfortable and is able to show more in terms of locating the football and making a play on it.
One of the problems Hal seems to run into is having a good sense of when to open up and flip his hips. When receivers are able to eat up ground against him and get on top of him, he, like any corner is forced to flips his hips to run with them. Hal will do this early at times and flips his hips to the inside. When he does this, the receiver is able to go off of him and come back to the football with a ton of space. At times, Hal will be late and give up space going down the field.
Facing the line of scrimmage, Hal is looking to come downhill to make a play on the football in an attempt to jump the route. He tends to give receivers too much space and makes it difficult for himself to make a play on the ball. Working to be able to change directions faster would help but ultimately he needs to just play tighter coverage. Â He seems to be trying to bait quarterbacks to throw the ball at him, but he has not really earned that freedom as a player yet with his lack of interceptions.
Hal is physical and will take opportunities to make a hit on a receiver trying to make a catch to jar the ball loose and he shows a great deal of power. Â He has gotten nailed for penalties with this and does need to be careful with how he hits the opponent, but teams will certainly be happy to have to reign in that type of aggressiveness rather than draw it out of him.
Hal shows a lot of promise as a zone defender because he is so comfortable playing facing the line of scrimmage. Last year, he had some problems getting his eyes locked onto the quarterback and getting stuck in cement while the receiver was able to get open in his zone.
This year, he has not only had better success with peripheral vision and being able to float with receivers while keeping an eye in the backfield. He has also shown he can cover, know when he needs to let go, coming back to his zone and covering another receiver entering his zone. He is a far more natural zone corner than he is a cover corner.
Hal’s ball skills are still unproven, but while he has gotten his hand on a number of passes in his career, he has three interceptions in three years. A large amount of this could be due to the space he ends up giving to opponents, so if he can play tighter, he may be able to make more plays on the ball and get more interceptions but to this point, he has not shown is much of a threat to turn over the football, so teams are not going to be afraid to throw at him until he does.
Blitzing off the Edge
Hal has the speed to come off the edge and Vanderbilt has been used to blitz the opponent, but he has not shown a ton of effort in this area. He comes off the line as fast as he can but seems to all but gives up at the prospect of being blocked, so if the play is not basically gift wrapped, he appears to be satisfied that it will not work rather than fighting to make a play. Hal just gets pushed outside and he just keeps going without putting up much of a fight. He clearly has the speed to do it and could be a dangerous player there but he needs to do more than run in a straight line.
Hal has contributed as a kick returner for the Commodores. With his size and speed, he is a decent threat back there and while he has only scored one touchdown in his career, he has maintained a good average. Hal has the physical skills and the mindset to run back well and is as qualified as anyone else to stand back in the end zone and watch the ball sail out of bounds behind him the vast majority of the time
As it stands right now, Hal looks to be best suited for a scheme that plays off man and zone. He looks to be a weak side corner at this point but could develop into a strong side corner if he decides he wants to be a better run defender. Hal could be developed into a press corner, but has not shown to have any experience in this area. His build, strength, and overall length for the position could make that a good fit.
He has the potential to develop into a starting caliber corner but at this point, he projects as more of a nickel or dime corner, who could conceivably more one of the starting corners into the slot and stay on the outside and be more of a sideline defender. Hal does have experience at both but with his preference to play on the inside, it makes sense to let him use the sideline as a defender.
It would also not be a surprise if Hal is mentioned as a possible safety. Because of his range on the back end and his willingness to hit receivers as an intimidator, it would not be a shock if the conversation is at least brought up at some point during the process. While it stands to reason that Hal would be given every opportunity to show he can be a corner first, safety could be a fall back spot for him. Overall, Hal could be a good fit for a team that runs a Tampa-2 type scheme or a man/zone system like the Green Bay Packers run. There is nothing to suggest he cannot play in other schemes yet, but that is where his experience lies to this point.
At this point, Hal’s game is similar to that of A.J. Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings. Both players bring a lot of length to the position but have not yet put it altogether and look more the part of someone who is going to be fighting for a nickel or dime spot at this point rather than a starting spot.
Andre Hal’s physical ability and technique to this point suggest that Hal is a third day pick in the NFL Draft. He has the physical tools to play in the NFL but technically, he has a lot of work to do both in coverage, especially in man and when it comes to being an effective tackler and run defender. His physical potential is something to gamble on if a team can get him to play to it, especially if they are a zone team where he has shown far more ability than he has in man. The system could make the grade on Hal from various teams vary greatly and cause some to look at him near the fringe of the top 100 while others have him closer to the end of the Draft or not on their draft board at all.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com