Matchup Breakdown: WR Donte Moncrief v. CB Andre Hal


Aug 29, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores corner back Andre Hal (23) breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Donte Moncrief (12) during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Rebels beat the Commodores 39-35. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most interesting matchups this past week was Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief up against Vanderbilt corner Andre Hal and safety Kenny Ladler.  After getting a chance to look at the tape of the game, there are a few trends that seemed to stick out throughout the game that really impacted how the game played out and could come up in future games.  Moncrief seemed to respond to a physical brand of football by constantly trying to appeal to officials while Hal was extremely aggressive because he did have help behind him most of the time in Ladler and it helped him have a good game, though there were some issues.

Moncrief enters this season as one of the most talented receiver prospects in the country and there are plenty (myself included) who think he could end up as a first round pick.  One of the issues that works against him at times is his effort.  In the past, this usually showed itself in the form of some iffy blocking attempts, but in this game, it came up by how he responded to a physical game.

Hal played Moncrief extremely physically and Moncrief was consistently looking to the officials for calls.  Moncrief was right most of the time.  Hal was being too physical and there were some holding calls missed, though Hal did get called for pass interference at one point.  The fact that Moncrief was right about the calls does not change the fact he was not getting them.  He was far too passive and should have responded by getting the sense of the game.

Just like batters needing to adjust to an umpire’s strike zone, players need to adjust to how a football game is being called.  They were letting defenders play physical.  Moncrief should have responded by being more physical himself.  Instead, he let Hal grab him, push him out of bounds a few times and just impose his will.  Moncrief is not weak and when he wants, he can be extremely powerful.  Hal is strong but the physicality in this game was so one-sided.  The fact that flags should have been thrown on a few plays does not change the fact they were not and as a result, Moncrief was really taken out of his game and had an extremely tough time making an impact on the game.  In the end, Moncrief was able to catch 5 passes for 56 yards but 39 of them were on one play.  He just was not the player he could have and should have been in that game, especially when he was lined up across from Hal.

Hal, on the other hand, was able to really send a message with his physical play.  Not only was he aggressive in coverage, but he was an active run supporter who had a few good tackles and made hits with impact.  One of the knocks on Hal from last year was how uncomfortable he was playing in an opponent’s hip pocket.  In this game, he played off man coverage, let receivers come to him, got a hit on them and then ran with them, so he showed a little more in terms of willingness to run with receivers without giving up space.

Part of the Vanderbilt plan seemed to be to get the Rebels in obvious passing downs and then give up underneath passing while making sure to tackle them short of the sticks.  Between his physicality in general and his ability to break on the ball, Hal excelled in this role and they were effective at employing it.  In the end, Hal was able to collect 7 solo tackles and 3 pass deflections.

As mentioned earlier, Moncrief was lobbying for flags too much and should have just adjusted and played tougher, but he was right.  Hal could have been called for a few holding penalties and he was called for pass interference.  Yes, certainly Hal needs to play physical but he needs to be disciplined and avoid getting caught up on holding and getting beat to where he needs to grab the receiver not to get beat.  Hal can get away with this style of defense in college because they are more lax with how they officiate contact down the field, but this will be far stricter in the NFL.  As a result, Hal is going to have to make a big adjustment with his play style, get better with how and where he can make contact or the opponent will get illegal contact penalties which are 5 yards and more importantly, automatic first downs.

Hal had a good game overall and it definitely helped that the Commodores were able to get pressure on Bo Wallace, but he still has work to do when it comes to his technique as a corner.  Still, Hal’s physical play is going to be attractive to teams in the NFL and his overall build looks impressive.  He could be a good press corner who will support the run at the next level with continued work.  Meanwhile, Moncrief needs to just deal with the fact that he is not going to get every call and just go make plays anyway.  He was certainly not awful by any stretch but it just seemed like Hal was able to get in his head too much and hurt his focus on being the star he should have been.  Teams that have a corner capable are going to look at this tape and try to employ a similar strategy.  Moncrief is going to see it again, so he needs to adapt and conquer it or will follow him the rest of his career.  Donte Moncrief is the better prospect but the defensive scheme and Hal’s physical toughness ultimately propelled him to win the matchup, despite the late game surge that enabled the Rebels to win the game.