"On the Spot" w/ OT Derek Hall (#53)

The Bootleg's Special Partner Dave Fowkes had a chance to catch up with fifth-year senior offensive lineman Derek Hall, who is a strong candidate to fill the critical role at right tackle as the Cardinal puts together its remaining puzzle pieces for 2010. There are still a few more practices before the starting line-up gets solidified so this will be one of the key competitions to track!

"On the Spot" w/ OT Derek Hall (#53)

Fifth-year senior  Derek Hall is battling in one of the more intriguing competitions for Stanford during training camp. The 6-5, 303-pound tackle from Overland Park, Kansas is going "toe-to-toe" with James McGillicuddy in a heated competition to become the Cardinal's starting right tackle. While the situation remains fluid, indications suggest Hall may be leading the competition slightly and could make an appearance in the starting lineup against theSacramento State Hornets on Saturday, September 4th.

The Bootleg's "Collaborative Partner" Dave Fowkes had the opportunity to chat with Hall after practice on Monday:

The Bootleg: How are things going out there for you?

Derek Hall: Things are going well. We are working every day to get better and to meet our goals for the season. Everybody is working. Everybody is out here grinding and loving it.

TB: You are engaged in one of the heated battles of camp - for right tackle. How are things going between you and McGillicuddy?

DH: It is a stiff competition. It is going well. We both push each other really hard. Competition will only help a team and it is only helping both of us get better. I am loving it.

TB: Is either of you a step in front of the other, or is it just back and forth?

DH: I don't think so. Until game day - then I can tell you if someone has a leg up. Until then, we are both just focusing and fighting for the position, fighting for our lives. Both seniors want that spot.

TB: What are you concentrating on to improve your game?

DH: I am really focusing on my pad level and my pass setting. I am focusing on my hands. So much offseason work on using my hands has really helped me to play a lot better. That is what I am focused on, my pad level and my hands.

TB: Do you feel stronger on run-blocking or pass-blocking or is it about the same for you?

DH: I will say I love run-blocking, because you get to get "physical". You get to fire on someone. So maybe a little bit stronger there, but I am constantly working to be balanced. You can not be one-dimensional and be a Division I starting lineman. You must be able to do both, especially in our offense.

TB: Talk about "consistency". That is the key to being a great player - to be great every play, how do you feel at reaching a consistent level of play?

DH: I feel like that is something I am still working for. I never feel like I have done well enough, ever. That has always been the toughest thing for me - to be consistent. I have shown flashes in the past. Now it is my senior year, it is time to be consistently good if I am going to have the type of year that I want to have.

TB: You are working with four returning starters to the left of you. How does that feel, stepping in next to David DeCastro and Chase Beeler in the middle?

DH: It's a great feeling. Each of them is experienced. Each of them knows the offense in and out. They are all trustworthy guys. You never have to worry about if they are going to communicate or give you a wrong call. If I ever have a question, I just know I can ask them. When the bullets start flying and the heat gets turned up, I know they are great guys to lean on. It feels great having experienced guys that you can trust on the left of you.

TB: For Stanford's offensive line to experience success during the season, what are the things that have to go right for you as a group?

DH: As you say, consistency. We have to consistently play "physical". We have to consistently perform well running the ball. We have to consistently move people off the ball so we can open up the offense. As a group we have to make sure we have a solid running game because a solid running game will open up the offense. That's what we have to do to have a great year.

TB: I know Saturday was a great day with Andrew Phillips returning from bereavement leave. Just talk about the team's emotions, having him coming back to school and to his Stanford family?

DH: It was awesome. Andy is one of the few guys from my original class. We have been through a lot. We have lost guys to medical redshirting or retirement or just quitting over all. So I love the guy. He is definitely one of our strongest leaders on the team. To have him back was an amazing feeling. It lifted everybody up. It got everybody's energy up. We have rallied around him. It really made us feel like a family. A lot of people say family, da-da-da-da, and it is usually just talk. We really feel like a family, when we are embracing him and bringing him back together. It is great having our leader back.

TB: This is your fifth year on the Farm... In terms of team chemistry, from the perspective of an outsider, it feels like this is one of the closer teams in terms of bonding. Do you feel that?

DH: I have been a around a lot of teams. I have been here through our worst season and then our great season last year. This year - I have never felt like our team has ever been more tight. It has never been more cohesive. Guys really actually like each other. There is healthy competition. There are no guys pushing each other down or tearing each other down. Everyone is just fighting to be the best, but we all love each other at the same time. We appreciate competition. We do not turn it into an unhealthy thing where we are bad-mouthing each other.

TB: It does seem there is an amazing ability to embrace competition on offense and defense?

DH: That is what we are here for. We are here to make each other better. The defense is here to make us better. We are here to make the defense better. That is the only way you win - by playing hard, all-out, every play, pushing each other to improve.

TB: You are pass-blocking in front of a pretty special quarterback, can you share your thoughts on redshirt sophomore Andrew Luck?

DH: He is a great player. He has all the talent in the world. All we have to do is just give him a chance, give him some time back there and I know he is going to do some great things this season. That is something we have really emphasized. We just have to fight. Not only is he a special player, talent-wise, but he is just such a good guy and we like him so much it just makes you fight that much harder to give him more time back there to make plays. We know, if we give him enough time, he is going to do what he has to do to make a play.

TB:  Can you give examples of what he does ? Is it the way he leads in practice? The way he works? What does Andrew Luck do to inspire his teammates' admiration? 

DH: He is so.... nice. He is so positive, no matter what. Even if we mess up a protection, he is not cussing us out. He'll say "Let's go, let's go, forget that play, let's move on to the next play!" If he makes a great play, the first thing he is doing is come up and thank the line, "Great protection guys, great protection!" He is so encouraging and so positive. I have never seen him cuss anyone out or say anything mean to anybody, ever. All he does is pick up and build up his teammates whether they do well or poorly and that makes you want to fight for him.

TB: Talk about his growth as a leader from last year to this year? He is less than 12 months from his debut in the line-up, can you talk about how he has grown in the huddle?

DH: He is a great leader. He knows what he is doing. He knows the offense in and out. It allows him to focus on helping us out too. He is not just thinking about what he has to do, he knows what he has to do. So it lets him be that much more of a leader. And everyone respects him so much, everybody listens to him. He is one of the leaders of our team and it does not matter how young he is. Andrew has proven that he is trustworthy and worthy of our respect and it is worth everyone's while to listen to what he has to say.

Bootleg "Special Partner" Dave Fowkes is a longtime Stanford Cardinal fan. Born at Stanford Hospital (like "Emeritus"!) and raised on the Peninsula, he has been a football season ticket-holder since 1981. In that span he has only missed three home games, but of course never a Big Game. Dave currently works in local media both on the air and behind the scenes in advertising sales. He has covered sports on and off since 1992. Currently he works as a traffic, news and sports man on several Bay Area radio stations under a few different on-air aliases. Dave blends the passion of being a fan with the perspective of being a reporter in his stories. For more Stanford football coverage by Dave Fowkes, you can read the "Stanford Football Examiner" at www.stanfordfootballreport.com  

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