ATLANTA — The subtle smile that has long been a staple of Robert Hall’s exterior has made a comeback.
For the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, that can be seen as a good sign. That’s because earlier this summer, there was very little for the defensive lineman to smile about.
“Football, it’s not so much a distraction; it’s my job,” Hall said, reflecting on his emotional past three months. “It’s what I came here to do. I’m just fulfilling my role.”
Although suspended for Georgia Tech’s Week 1 contest against South Carolina State following an arrest earlier this summer, Hall has rejoined the team as preseason camp opens this week, and expects to be a key contributor when he is allowed to play.
Back in June, the prospects of even sniffing a football field in the fall may have been dim for the senior.
The Hawkinsville native was arrested in the early-morning hours one Sunday when he and his girlfriend, a former Georgia Tech athlete, were allegedly involved in an altercation at his on-campus dorm. Georgia Tech police reports of the incident detailed a salacious account of a verbal dispute over the pair’s pooled scholarship monies that apparently grew violent, with blood reportedly found in a bathroom.
Hall was arrested and later released, with charges being dropped a few weeks ago. He has since been cleared to play with the team again, after being originally suspended indefinitely by head coach Paul Johnson. While he is finishing community service, Hall has tried to put the night in question in his past. Due to the nature of the legal issue, Hall was unable to speak about it.
In moving on, he is fully committed to picking up where he left off last year; starting.
One of two first-team defensive ends in Georgia Tech’s system last season, Hall started the Yellow Jackets’ first three games before tearing his ACL against Miami in Week 3. As a result of the length of his rehab process, Hall missed spring practices, and was forced to look on as sophomore Izaan Cross and redshirt freshman Emmanuel Dieke went racing past him on the depth chart.
“It takes tremendous focus (to come back),” Hall said. “In the offseason, you really have to put yourself in the training room and try to gain back what you lost and don’t lose touch with your teammates. Keep all the chemistry there.
“So I’ve spent a lot of time with my teammates, and spent a lot of time in here watching film so I won’t get behind. Since I can’t do the physical aspect, might as well do the film study, film room and stuff like that.”
Hall said many of his teammates were unaware of his off-field ordeal this summer, but those who knew, were very supportive, as they have been with his injury, he said.
Johnson on closure decision
On Tuesday, Georgia Tech announced it was closing preseason practices to fans and media members.
No reasons were given.
Following the first day of workouts Thursday, Johnson opened up to reporters about why he felt the need to keep outside elements away.
“Most everybody closes practice. There’s very few people who don’t,” he said, referring to other colleges. “It’s a distraction to the guys and it was just easier to close it.”
B-back Anthony Allen noticed the change, when he would look up and see players completing long runs or come away with great catches.
“When there’s a big play or someone runs for a long gain or runs like they could score a touchdown, there isn’t anybody up there going ‘ooh and ahh anymore,’” Allen said.
Typically, fans and reporters would sit up on a hill overlooking the practice fields where they could see receivers running routes, running backs working on blocking drills and defensive players understanding defensive schemes.
Johnson’s APR high
Players aren’t the only ones who get evaluated on academic progress; coaches do, as well.
The academic progress report (APR) for head coaches was made available Thursday, and Paul Johnson claimed high marks.
The single-year APR for Johnson and his football program in the 2008-09 school year was 993 (out of a possible 1,000). That was his first year at Georgia Tech.
APR data showcases how individual colleges and individual teams fare academically.
Apparently, no fumblitis
For the first two seasons under Johnson, first-day fumbles were a point of concern.
There were botched reads, missed handoffs and just slippery carries all over the Rose Bowl practice fields the fall of 2008 when he first took over, and there were other—less noticeable—miscues last season.
To hear players tell it, there were no such problems on opening day 2010.
“There were no mesh fumbles, none of that,” Allen said.