Hall Uses Offense to the Max

BYU held a full-padded scrimmage Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium. The results of the offensive performance were clear. The offense was able to march downfield with efficiency despite not having all of its bullets loaded in the chamber. The secret to Hall's well-rounded development is learning from various NFL and BYU influences to become a complete Cougar quarterback.

Senior quarterback Max Hall was all smiles Saturday, as he should have. Receiving limited reps on the field in an offense lacking two offensive line starters and without its starting running backs, Hall took control and drove down the field. Despite a Collie-less squad, Hall went through his progressions, looked off receivers and picked apart a defense put back on its heels.

"I think last year the whole design of the offense was to get Austin [Collie] the ball," said Hall. "He's one of the best, maybe the best, receivers to ever come through BYU, so you want to try and get him the ball. Last year we may have gotten a little Austin-heavy, but he was also one of the reasons why we won a lot of the games we did last year, so we wanted to get that guy the ball.

"This year it's a little different because we have more weapons," Hall continued. "I think last year if we had a little more weapons, we could have relied on them a little more instead of Austin so much. This year is exciting because we have a guy at every position that can make a play, and it's a guy that I trust and am confident in."

Last year it was easy to throw the ball to him as a first option simply because he was so effective. With the loss of Collie to the NFL draft, Hall is focusing more on ball distribution to a wider range of weapons. However, in order to become more effective with a greater variety of ball distribution, a pre-snap read has to be effectively made.

"I think the offense will stay the same and you got to go through your progressions, and a lot of times Austin was our first option," said Hall. "You still have to go through your reads, but what I'm really focusing on this year is really knowing what the defenses are doing, being really good pre-snap and then understanding where I need to get the ball instead of just going through my reads after the snap. And so if I can be really good at understanding what the defenses are doing in their efforts in trying to stop us, then that's where I think we'll be our best."

Is the issue of locking onto a first option simple because that option is a good one still present? One could argue that tight end Dennis Pitta could still present that scenario, but Hall doesn't see it that way. Sure, the offense has to still use its primary weapons as much as possible, but they also have to be smart in how they are used.

"When you've got a guy like Dennis Pitta, that doesn't mean you have always get him the ball, but we do have to use him and find ways to get him the ball because of how good of a player he is," said Hall. "I have to also be good at using him as a decoy once in a while and getting other guys the ball in order to move the chains."

And moving the chains is exactly what Hall did during Saturday's scrimmage. The offense found itself in a few third-and-long situations, one of which came about due to a sack that clearly wasn't. The defender was about 2-to-3 yards away from Hall, but the whistle was blown quickly to protect him. Hall was able to keep the drive alive, however, by completing a 24-yard pass to O'Neill Chambers.

"It's good and it's good for our guys to understand the situation that we're in," Hall said. "On one of them, O'Neill ran a great route down the field and got open, and so those guys are starting to know what to do in those situations."

Knowing what to do in a given situation means not only developing through experience but also becoming more of a student of the game in terms of pre-snap reads. This aspect of the game has become a focus of Hall's for over the past year. Now when the senior signal-caller steps up to the line of scrimmage, his confidence and understanding of what needs to be done to attack a defense is clearer and more visible.

"I spent a lot more time this year studying film and explaining things to help our receivers understand defense, understand why they are running a certain route and to understand why we are running a specific play," Hall said. "I think they have responded really well and have confidence in me to get us in the right play, so now I just have to do my best to make sure that we are doing that. I've really concentrated on my pre-snap reads and making sure that we got the guys in the right play today."

Hall's position coach, Coach Doman, is not only a competitive coach, but was also a former NFL player for the San Francisco 49ers. Hall has drawn from his vast understanding of the game, and his relationship with Doman has paid dividends on the field.

But Hall's training and influences don't just stop with his position coach. Former BYU Heisman winner and NFL quarterback Ty Detmer is becoming more involved with the quarterbacks.

"Talking with guys and learning from other quarterbacks that had played here, as well as Coach Doman, has really helped me grow," Hall said. "Ty Detmer was here yesterday and conducted one of our meetings. He just said, ‘You know, it shouldn't matter who you play and it shouldn't matter what guys you have out there. All that matters is the quarterback getting his guys to believe in him, and getting those guys to think we're here and we're going to play our best and execute right.' That's what our guys did today and it was awesome."

Detmer totaled 14 seasons in the NFL as both a player and a mentor to players such as Tim Couch, Michael Vick and Matt Schaub.

"I mean, it's awesome and I love Ty Detmer," Hall said. "He's just a normal guy when he's in there and when he talks, but he is just so smart about the game. He came in and we watched a little Oklahoma film and he gave us some pointers and a few things to watch for. He's just a great guy to look up to and someone I really try and model my game after."

BYU is known among the college circles as "Quarterback U," and utilizing those former quarterbacks like Detmer that have knowledge of the game and NFL experience as a resource can only help. But the utilization of BYU's vast quarterback resources doesn't just stop there.

"Yeah, Ty is involved, and not just him but a lot of the old BYU quarterbacks," Hall said. "Ty is one guy who comes in and helps us with things, along with Steve Young [and] Robbie Bosco, and Gifford Nelson is another one, so all of these guys are getting more involved and it's great having those guys around and as a resource."

During Saturday's scrimmage, Hall put into practice what he was taught during the team meeting with Detmer. Part of that involved just being calm and letting his teammates know that he trusts them, "because if guys know that you believe in them and that you trust them, they're going to play hard for you."

"Today you saw Brett Thompson, Tucker Lamb, Braden Brown and Mike Muehlmann, who are guys normally running with the twos but were with me today and had a great day," said Hall. "Our two new offensive linemen were in there today and they did a great job, so it was comforting because it made my day easier."

In the audio interview below Coach Doman talks about the offense and Hall's performance and level of execution.


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