Clay Mack, a former high-level cornerback at UNLV and Mississippi State, is one of the Dallas area's top defensive back trainers. Working alongside former Oklahoma wideout David Robinson, the duo have formed QuickTwitch Training. One of Mack's clients, 2014 safety Jason Hall, is a Texas commitment, and Mack took the time to answer several questions about his protégé.
LonghornDigest.com — You've said in the past that Jason Hall is somewhat comparable with another client of yours, Jamal Adams. Where does that comparison come from?
Clay Mack — "I say that because athletically, they're very comparable. Jamal's a great athlete, and Jason's a great athlete. Jamal is a little bit more explosive, and Jason's a little bit bigger and longer. That's where that comparison is drawn by me. Now, there is a difference on the technical side, and a lot of that has to do with me having Jamal longer. Now, I've spent a lot of time with Jason as well, and he's doing a nice job of catching up in areas where he is inefficient. That's one of the things that I spoke with him about … with his stature, his size is the first thing that people look at. He can use his body position at 6-3, and my motto to him is that I want to make him move like he's 5-9 or 5-10.
"Jamal really kind of set the tone for Jason. Jason would watch Jamal and see how everything is supposed to look, and he'd take that leap and run with it."
LonghornDigest.com — You're comparing him to a guy that most people have as a five-star, all-everything kind of guy. So I take it you think Hall is underrated?
Mack — "Yes, I think he's absolutely underrated. I've looked around at a lot of the guys through the country, and with me being a skills guy, I definitely try to dig into a lot of what people are doing at the next level. And when looking at the best guys in the country, from a skills standpoint, It would throw him into that group. I'm not trying to sound biased about him. I just watch how he puts in the work. The one thing that he and I have talked about is that he needs to present himself big. On a social level, Jason's kind of an introverted guy. But on the field, he is so passionate and so physical. He turns himself up so much that he can be almost too dominant. Even going through spring ball at South Grand Prairie, the coaches had to make sure that he couldn't touch guys, can't press guys or hit guys so that they could run some stuff. When you take his aggression, and his skill and agility and his size — a lot of which comes from the fact that he was a basketball player — he's really second to one. He works at it so much. I'll be interested to see how he continues to develop, especially as he's more concentrated."
LonghornDigest.com — One of the cooler things to do is attend one of your skill sessions, when you have guys like Jamal Adams, DaMarkus Lodge, Marcus Green, Emanuel Porter and guys in the past like Quincy Adeboyejo come through and go against each other hard in one-on-ones. How has working in that kind of environment helped Hall develop?
Mack — "When you go against good competition, it kind of forces you to be honest in the things that you do. It makes you evaluate how you approach things. When you're playing against some of these guys like Emanuel Porter, Laquvionte Gonzalez, Kameel Jackson or Quincy Adeboyejo, you can't be inefficient in your movements. Those guys are all fast, speedy, quick-twitch kind of guys. They're next level guys, and they can take advantage of any mistakes that Jason might make. That's why, in our other workouts, we try to slow things down. In our skill clinics that we provide, we want to lay the foundation for what he needs, and break it down so that he can get the fundamentals down. Then, when he goes against those guys, it really speeds it up. It makes him concentrate on skills he needs to exhaust. He has to think fast and execute fast. That's something he can't get against lower-division high school kids. He needs to work against the supreme, the elite kids who are going to be playing on Saturday mornings. And he's really learned how to adapt to those elite athletes as a DB."
LonghornDigest.com — Obviously, Hall is listed everywhere as a safety. But he's somebody that you've talked about as a versatile guy in the past. At the same time, Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina likes having players who can slide around and play different positions. Can Hall play different spots across the secondary?
Mack — "Absolutely. That's the one thing that people are kind of underestimating about him, because he's such a big kid. But if you clock him on any given day, he can run in the 4.5s, and even get into the 4.4s (EDITOR'S NOTE: Texas had Hall in the mid-4.6 range at its camp in June). He can jump. He's explosive. He's a quick-twitch guy. I see him, and Texas sees him, as a hybrid-type guy. All of my guys, even the safeties, I train at corner because that's a higher skill set. Playing safety, I give them more film-type work, being the quarterback of the secondary and knowing how to play safety. But as far as the skill side goes, I make Jason play corner. I want him to work on his feet and his hips and his transitional skills. That also helps him in the event that he has to walk down and play a slot receiver man-to-man. You can incorporate him there now, and when he gets to college, he can concentrate more on learning the scheme and the different techniques of the defense, rather than skill work. I've watched Coach Akina and kind of dug more into the things that he does, and that way, if we have a kid that goes down that way, like Jason, we can give him a head start on some of the things they'll do.
LonghornDigest.com — Of course, in the modern-day Big 12, a safety has to be able to cover one-on-one. Have you seen more of a need in recent years to make sure that your safeties can cover like corners?
Mack — "Yes. With the spread, and with how creative offensive coordinators are being right now, it really makes it to where the whole defense has to get faster and more versatile. Most linebackers now are safeties that aren't that great in coverage, per se. You see a more flexible athlete playing linebacker. And that goes down the line. Your defensive backs have to be true cover guys. Even if you're a safety, you're going to have to play a lot of man-to-man. That's why we try to concentrate so much on skill work, on making sure that, if you're a DB, you can cover. And with the whole protecting players, with the safety rules put into place taking away big hits and stopping people from leading with the crown of their helmets, etc., that means you can't just be a hitter back there. That means you have to be skillful. Offenses are spreading you out defensively, and they're going to put you in space. If you don't have the skill set, you just aren't going to survive."
LonghornDigest.com — We've talked quite a bit about Jason Hall the cover guy. What about Jason Hall in run support?
Mack — "He's a mean guy. I don't mean that with any kind of malice or ill intent. He just has that 'it' factor when it comes to that physical element. No matter what size you are, some guys just have a talent for what some coaches call 'capping it off' in the run game. Jason doesn't mind coming downhill and capping it off. That was what I first loved about him. When I saw him, and saw how physical he was when it came to making plays in the box, once I saw that aspect, I knew I had something and could concentrate on the skill side. I see him 2-3 times a week even now during the season. I always tell him, we're not getting ready for a big rivalry game in high school, we're going to get you ready for that next level.
"He's a great kid. Once somebody digs into Jason Hall, you look at all the attributes, he's one of those kids, a so-called under-the-radar type kid who is one of those guys you definitely want in your program. For him moving forward, his potential is off the charts."