University of Alabama

Tide record within reach

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — At some point in Saturday’s game with Arkansas or soon thereafter, Alabama wide receiver DJ Hall will total his 2,071st career receiving yard.

In doing so, he’ll break one of Alabama’s longest-standing individual football records. He’ll also pass Crimson Tide and NFL legend Ozzie Newsome, who totaled 2,070 yards for Alabama from 1974-77.

Hall is pretty ho-hum about the possibility, though.

"Somebody mentioned it to me last night," Hall said Wednesday. "Told me, I can’t remember how many yards it was. I still thought I was about 200 yards away until they said it last night. I ain’t worried about it. I’ll probably worry about it after the game if I get it."

His teammates, at least, are fully cognizant that history is in the making.

"We’re aware of it, but we don’t dwell on it," fellow receiver Mike McCoy said. "When DJ breaks the record, we’re all going to be proud of him because he works hard and that’s a big step. He deserves it, he earned it. I’m going to be more excited for him than he is because I’m on the same field with him. I’m pretty sure I’ll get chill bumps, too."

Hall enters Saturday with 2,037 yards on 132 career catches, with 11 touchdowns. He already holds a pair of school records — receiving yards in a season (1,056 in 2006) and 100-yard receiving games in a career (10).

Not bad for a guy who played in an option-based attack at Choctawhatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He still managed 733 yards and 12 touchdowns as a prep senior, but was probably only the third-most highly regarded receiver in Alabama’s 2004 signing class, behind Keith Brown and Nikita Stover.

Nevertheless, Hall moved into Alabama’s regular receiving rotation early in his true freshman year and had become the Crimson Tide’s go-to receiver by the middle of his sophomore season of 2005. He caught 48 passes for 676 yards and five touchdowns that season, and followed it up with a 62-catch, five-touchdown effort for a school-record 1,056 yards in 2006.

He entered this year just 152 yards behind Newsome’s school record, but has gotten off to a slow (for him) start. Through two games, Hall has seven catches for 119 yards, both of which lead the team but are far below his pace from last season.

Hall’s numbers haven’t suffered this season due to double coverage or even because Wilson has played inconsistently in the Tide’s first two games. Instead, running back Terry Grant has rushed for 308 yards and five touchdowns the last two weeks, making a big-play passing game less necessary for the Crimson Tide.

"So far this year they’re kind of playing him straight up," Wilson said. "It wasn’t that way last year. They started double-teaming him and put another guy over the top, but the way we’re running the ball, they can’t really do that because they need the safeties for run support."

If history is any indication, Hall’s numbers could take a major spike upward on Saturday. He’s made a career of playing well against the Razorbacks, combining for nine receptions, 198 yards and three touchdowns the last two seasons.

He caught two scoring passes in the Crimson Tide’s 24-13 win in Tuscaloosa two years ago, then followed that up with a six-catch, 144-yard performance in last year’s 24-23 Arkansas win in Fayetteville. Included among those receptions was a 78-yard touchdown in which Hall split double coverage on the way to the 10th-longest scoring pass in Crimson Tide history.

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Hall’s big games against the Razorbacks don’t happen merely by chance.

"He’s tall, number one, he’s fast, very good hands, runs great routes," Nutt said. "He’s a physical guy. You’ve got to wrap him up. He’s got the capability of breaking tackles and he is a guy that has a lot of confidence. He’s a big playmaker, seems like every time we play them."

In his typical fashion, Hall gives the credit to those around him. The fact that Arkansas plays tight man coverage doesn’t hurt, either, he said.

"It’s pretty much the play calling," Hall said. "Every time we go up against them the coaches do a good job in finding ways for the receivers to get open. It just so happened they put me in the right position to get open. A lot of it from technique, but play-calling too."

Hall has played well enough in his Alabama career to catch the eye of NFL scouts, and is listed as a potential first-round pick for April’s draft. Newsome parlayed his decorated Alabama career into an even better one at the next level with the Cleveland Browns, catching 662 passes, making the Pro Bowl three times and eventually winding up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (he’s now general manager of the Baltimore Ravens).

Hall realizes he’ll be in good company by breaking Newsome’s record.

"It would mean a lot because he was so good at what he did," Hall said. "For me to come in and break it, it shows how blessed I am. A lot of people don’t have that opportunity. I’m just one of those people that did."