Speed remains focal point of Emanuel Hall’s game, except when counting down his days at MU

Wide receiver Emanuel Hall will be Missouri’s top target through the air, and he’s keeping everything in perspective ahead of his final season.
Senior wide receiver Emanuel Hall works against wide receivers coach A.J. Ofodile during drills at a Missouri fall camp practice at the Mizzou Athletics Training Center on August 16, 2018.

Emanuel Hall spent preseason camp training himself to envision the Alabama defense across the line of scrimmage.

The practice has become second-hand to him by now. As his fourth and final camp as a Missouri wide receiver comes to an end, Hall has the defending national champions to look forward to as an opponent in six-plus weeks. That contest will be the first ever against Alabama for Hall and his teammates, but his experience has taught him to start preparing for the big games early.

“It’s film, film, film,” Hall said. “You’ve gotta know guys’ tendencies; you’ve gotta know what they do.”

But the senior has decided that not even film alone is enough.

“At practice, you’ve gotta work like you're working against them,” he said. “You’re not working against the scout team. You’re not working against our defense. You’re working against ‘Bama. That's really how you’ve gotta view it.”

And if you don’t? You’re digging your own grave, Hall says.

“It’s gonna be a shock to your system.”

Slated to be one of quarterback Drew Lock’s top targets at wideout after reining in eight touchdowns in the final eight games of last season, Hall is antsy to get moving on the field, but hoping time slows down off it. The Missouri veteran is keeping everything in perspective surrounding his final season.

Throughout preseason camp, he says the focal point of that perspective has been a lethal three-game stretch that opens the Tigers’ conference schedule — against Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama — but first thing’s first.

Now that the last camp is out of the way, the last first game is the next landmark. That’s this Saturday against Tennessee Martin at 3 p.m. within the confines of Missouri’s Faurot Field.

“I’ve been talking about it every night,” Hall said. “You’ve really gotta focus on that one game, because even the worse teams or the sorrier teams can beat you. If you lose that game, what does the big game even matter?”

That’s been Hall’s biggest mental challenge in the build-up to the season. As he points out, it’s not easy to balance the typical, one-game-at-a-time cliche with the sense that the trio of top-tier conference-opening foes is a defining stretch in the season.

“That’s the best schedule you can honestly have,” he said.

It’s a schedule that certainly takes its share of early preparation. And no area this offseason presented need for preparation from Hall more than a shifting offensive style under new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley.

Rather than continuing to thrive on his reputation for simply out-running cornerbacks, Hall’s focus has been learning and mastering the route tree.

“I'm not a guy that really focuses on media too much,” he said, “but I do hear the ‘You can’t run routes’ and I think it’s funny, because I didn't have to run routes. I wasn't told to run routes, so therefore I did not run routes. And honestly, what I did was fun. I was beating guys on the field.”

Speed isn’t a factor to be discounted in a more route-specific offense, Hall insists. It’s just a matter of still being able to use it while incorporating technical soundness.

“If the safety’s not playing me, if [the cornerback] plays me one-on-one, I hope that Drew checks me out because I’m trying to take a 9 [route],” Hall said. The ‘9’ on the route tree is a fade or go-route. It’s a simple downfield footrace, but to Hall, there’s nothing wrong with simple. That’s his bread and butter.

“If I could take a 9 [route] every time i'm gonna do it,” he said. “There’s some big corners and a lot of guys that really can't keep up. So if you do everything technically right, I think you can expose a lot of teams in the deep post.”

To Hall, that means even Georgia. Even South Carolina. Even Alabama. Because why not? He’s done it to top-five Georgia before — on the road — when last season he went deep and scored on a 63-yard touchdown reception … two possessions in a row.

“I love playing at Georgia,” he said with a smile.

And this season, the defending national runners-up come to Columbia for Missouri’s conference opener, the first matchup in that triumvirate of the SEC’s best. Those three games are the ones Hall looks forward to the most, but he’s in no rush to get there.

He knows he’s at his best, refined technically and ready to lead mentally, and he’s savoring every moment of his final go-around.

“This all flew by so fast,” Hall said after one practice.

Even faster than him.

Edited by Adam Cole | acole@themaneater.com

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