Are You Watching Max Hall Closely?

"Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called "The Pledge." The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't."

Max Hall's sophomore season, replacing the graduated John Beck, was decent. Statistically, he finished with a passer rating of 137.7, a completion percentage of 60.1% and a touchdown/interception ratio of 2.17. In terms of comparison to other BYU quarterbacks a Beck comparison is probably the most fair because of time proximity. Beck's passer rating as a sophomore was a less than stellar 128.5. Of course, Hall was blessed with a better overall supporting cast. (Beck's second season was Gary Crowton's last, as BYU finished 5-6.)

In 2007 the Hall-led Cougars won the MWC for a second consecutive season and finished ranked 14th in the polls after squeaking past UCLA in the Vegas Bowl. Quite an accomplishment for a sophomore QB despite having a team with numerous starters from the stellar team the year prior. Hall was replacing the school's second all-time passing yardage leader (behind only Detmer of course) and was hit hard consistently - especially early in the season - due to an inconsistent offensive line and an oft-injured fullback (Fui Vakapuna).

Certainly a 137.7 passer rating isn't anything to get real excited about. But Hall did show a few things in his first season. Interestingly, Marc Wilson's career passer rating at BYU (1977-79) was just 137.2. Another QB in that area was Gary Sheide (138.8 from 1973-74). So Hall looked like a competent quarterback, which is really all we really could have expected from a guy's first year at the helm - even one as old as Hall who had already served a mission and transferred from ASU.

"The second act is called "The Turn". The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled."

Last year, Hall's junior year, there was major improvement. Early it looked like the Cougars might have something really special. Prior to the final two games of 2008 - against Utah and Arizona - Hall had an incredible passer rating of 169.95. To give you an idea, if Hall had maintained that rating he would have finished 5th in the nation behind only Bradford, David Johnson, McCoy and Tebow. Pretty sweet company. Hall also had a terrific completion percentage of 71.5% and a fantastic touchdown/interception ratio of 4.25. But he couldn't hold on. I'm not going to revisit the disaster in SLC - but Hall finished the year with a solid QB rating of 156.9 (good enough for 13th overall - and still better than Matthew Stafford and Brian Johnson).

A big part of Hall's success was of course the improved play of a veteran offensive line (plus the addition of Matt Reynolds), a healthy Vakapuna, more experienced targets in Unga, Reed and Pitta - and an out of his mind Austin Collie. The 2008 consensus on Hall is that he had the tools and demeanor to handle the lowly Washington and Wyomings - but not an upper echelon defensive scheme like those of the 2008 Utes and Horned Frogs. Hall, now with a BYU career 147.1 QB rating, again showed that he could be one of the better quarterbacks to pass through Provo - not in the Detmer, McMahon category, but certainly comparable to Robbie Bosco (career 149.4 passer rating) or even perhaps a less-mobile Steve Young (career 149.8 passer rating).

"But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige.'"

This is how Max Hall currently stands in the BYU record books:

QB Rating - 147.1 ... 8th overall
Passing Yards - 7,805 ... 7th overall
Completion % - 64.5% ... 3rd overall
Touchdowns - 61 ... Tied-6th overall
TD/Int. Ratio - 2.35 ... 3rd overall

Okay. His QB rating is in the middle of the pack. However, if Hall were to duplicate the exact numbers from 2008 (156.9 rating), he'd finish his BYU career with a 150.33 QB rating. That would place Hall as 5th all-time, behind only Detmer, Sarkisian (two seasons), McMahon, and Brandon Doman (only one full season as starter). Also, if Hall were to equal his numbers from last season he'd finish 2nd all-time in passing yards (just ahead of Beck - 11,762 to 11,021) and 2nd all-time in touchdown passes.

In other words, as long as he stays healthy, Max Hall will put himself high up there in the books. His legacy however will not hinge on statistics...it will center on wins and championships. That is where Zac's criticism truly lies - and rightfully so. Hall should compare favorably to Beck and others numbers wise. But Beck, under Mendenhall of course, brought the Cougars out of the Crowton-led drought and had two colossal wins: 1) the 2006 win over Utah in SLC (Harline catch), with Beck finishing with 375 yards passing and 4 TD's; and 2)the 2006 Vegas bowl win over Oregon (38-8), the school's first bowl win since 1996.

So there it is. If Hall is going to be looked on positively in the future he'll probably have to win another bowl game and/or win another conference championship. Then I'll talk about how I was in the south end-zone for the 4th and 18 play when Hall connected with Collie down the sideline in the 4th quarter against the Utes, (with Unga quickly scoring the would be game winning TD thereafter). Right now that play is still memorable, but with a strong 2009 Hall will bolster his bid to become one of BYU's all-time elite. If this year's team loses games to OU, FSU, TCU and loses another bowl game, in my estimation Hall will not be nearly as highly regarded despite having superb numbers. Still, here's to hoping that he does perform well and that the Cougars can be in the national spotlight once again - it might take a bit of magic, but stranger things have happened.

Maybe it's early, but what do you think is Max Hall's ceiling in terms of BYU quarterback history? His floor? What kind of season do you expect from him in 2009? What about the Oklahoma game in particular - can he do well on a big stage?

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