A few years ago I met Will Hall at a coaching clinic in Arizona. Most of the guys there coached at big-time programs. The baby-faced Hall had to be the most unassuming guy in the room. He's about 5-8, 160 pounds. We ended up talking about Mississippi high school football for about an hour. Later that night I found out that Hall was actually a great college player. He'd even won the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is the Heisman for D2 football in 2004 while he was a QB at North Alabama.
Lost in all of the craziness of the game of the year down here in Alabama, Hall's team, West Alabama, is primed for a huge Saturday themselves. Hall, the first-year head coach at the D2 program, has his team playing for its first Gulf South Conference title in 40 years against the No. 2 team at that level, Delta State.
When I called Hall Friday afternoon, he was riding the team bus to Mississippi. The bus had stopped around the midway point of the four-hour trip to conduct its Friday walkthrough at Madison Central High School. It may sound kinda bizarre, but that is life in small-college football. It helped that Hall's dad coaches at Madison Central.
The former great player is proving to be quite the coach. Three years ago he arrived at West Alabama as offensive coordinator of a program that has just two winning seasons since 1975. Hall, a protege of UL-Lafayette head coach Mark Hudspeth, overhauled the system, putting in a no-huddle shotgun, spread option attack that incorporates a lot of formations and personnel groupings. The results have been head-turning.
West Alabama is 7-2. UWA just beat Terry Bowden's North Alabama team that is loaded with D1 transfers. More impressively is that UWA is on this run despite having lost their starting QB to a torn ACL in Week 3. Hall turned the offense over to a 5-7, 149-pound freshman named Kyle Caldwell, who the coach maintained was the best high school quarterback in the state of Alabama last year. "He's very fast," says Hall. "He's a 4.5 guy and he's got a great arm and is a coach's son. He's just very short. But he's about 5-9 in tennis shoes."
Caldwell has thrown 11 TDs and just four INTs and leads the conference in passing. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to redshirt and is looking a lot like the way his coach used to play.
UWA's star on offense is Matt Willis, arguably the top JC running back in the Mississippi junior college ranks in 2010, who didn't qualify for Division I football. The 5-9, 210-pound Willis, the state Player of the Year last season, has already run for over 1100 yards. "He is an SEC guy," said Hall.
Not only is a conference title hanging in the balance, but so is a bye week in the first-round of the D2 playoffs.
Another huge game Saturday for an Alabama school
Posted on: November 4, 2011 6:13 pm