Before Missouri’s game against Kentucky, the Tigers coaching staff had been trying to get junior wide receiver Emanuel Hall more involved in the offense for weeks.
On Saturday, the Wildcats secondary learned why.
Hall started in place of the recently dismissed Dimetrios Mason on Saturday and emerged as the Tigers’ leading receiver with four catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Tigers quarterback Drew Lock connected with Hall for a 58-yard touchdown early in the second quarter and a 48-yard completion in the third quarter that left Hall 2 feet short of his second score, but gave the Tigers first-and-goal.
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Missouri’s coaches had wanted to get Hall more involved with the offense before Mason’s departure, but a shoulder injury against Purdue delayed those plans for a few weeks.
MU coach Barry Odom said he’s seen Hall’s practice habits improve since Mason’s dismissal and thinks he’s matured and become more understanding of the team’s situation at the position.
“I think naturally when you get into the starting role, you pick up your getup a little bit,” Hall said. “Last year I started the season off starting, and then I got demoted to the second string. I think the biggest thing that is motivating me right now is go out there and play my hardest at all times and go out there and perform my best.”
Hall’s performance was reminiscent of his days at Centennial High School in Tennessee, where he was always known as the “deep-ball guy.”
The 6-foot-3 receiver regularly hauled in deep throws and was a constant mismatch for defensive backs with his size and blinding speed.
“His goal going into every game was to beat the crap out of corners,” said Chaz Hawkins, Hall’s older brother and a former sprinter at Duke. “He was always the bigger guy that no one really ever expected him to bolt past you.”
In his first two years at Missouri, Hall has shown flashes of being a consistent deep threat for the Tigers, but he hasn’t been able to be consistent. Hawkins said his brother needed time to adjust to offensive coordinator Josh Heupel’s fast-paced system.
Hall, who claims to run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, said he thinks a lot of good things are coming his way if he sticks to his current routine and the offense plays the way it should.
Missouri’s going to need Hall to be at his best Saturday against no. 4 Georgia if the Tigers are going to put up a fight against the Bulldogs. Georgia is one of the premier defensive teams in the country and is currently ranked no. 3 nationally in total defense.
Odom has praised Hall for his speed and his hands but said the bar has been raised after his performance last Saturday.
“I think he’s got the ability not only to stretch you vertically down the field, but if you get one blocker and a little bit of space, he’s going to get some yards, “ Odom said. “We need a bigger week this week.”