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Audition described as 'top-shelf'

3/20/2004

Just before DeAngelo Hall jogged out for his Thursday on-campus audition in front of 80 NFL scouts, agent Joel Segal huddled one last time with his client, and offered a pithy bit of instruction to the standout Virginia Tech cornerback.

"Go give 'em a show," Segal whispered.

Demonstrating he is as adept at taking orders as he is at taking an opposition wide receiver out of his rhythm, Hall did just that.

In a workout one NFC scout described as "top-shelf," Hall likely catapulted himself to the peak of the cornerback totem pole for next month's draft. The corner spot remains a position in flux, one for which preferences could change several times between now and April 24, but Hall certainly set the bar high for the other prospects at the position.

The junior defender, who bypassed his final year of eligibility to enter the draft, had a 39-inch vertical jump and a long jump of 10 feet, 9 inches. But the clincher was an amazing time of 3.68 seconds in the "short shuttle," a drill that displays change-of-direction skills, and one that had scouts double-checking their stopwatches.

Having been clocked at 4.35 in Indianapolis last month, Hall opted to let that time stand, and bypassed the 40-yard sprint.

Typically his own harshest critic, even the self-deprecating Hall was more than satisfied with his performance, especially with it being so critical to his future, as he attempts to move into the an elite spot in the draft.

"Right now, yeah, I think I separated myself from the other corners and am the top guy," acknowledged Hall by phone, just minutes after the workout. "I mean, those guys have to come after me now, the way I see it. I'm a complete cornerback, plus I can give you that return dimension, too. Compared to the other (cornerback prospects), well, I'm confident I moved to the top of the list. There's no holding me back now."

About the only negative scouts cite when discussing Hall is his lack of height. He was 5-feet-10 at the combine and weighed in at 202 pounds. On Thursday, his weight was down to 197 pounds, about where he played in college. This is a draft, though, in which few of the cornerbacks possess prototype physical dimensions, and scouts acknowledge Hall's vertical skills and innate aggressiveness will help him compensate.

He is a solidly built player, hardly lean, and will come up quickly to support against the run, as evidenced by 88 tackles in 2003.

"He's not one of those (defensive backs) who is 10 yards away from the ball," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. "When you freeze the tape, he's in the frame, that's for sure."

While more than a month remains in the draft assessment process, the consensus seems to be that Hall and Dunta Robinson of South Carolina have distanced themselves from the pack. That doesn't mean that other players -- like Chris Gamble of Ohio State, USC's Will Poole, Oklahoma's Derrick Strait and Ahmad Carroll of Arkansas -- won't make a move on the top spot. Certainly each has first-round potential. But at this juncture, with scouts starting to narrow their focus, there is little doubt Hall helped himself immeasurably Thursday afternoon.

Plus he will make an electrifying punt returner for whatever team gets him, having scored five times in the last two seasons -- he's a player who knows the way to the end zone when the ball is in his hands. Unlike some players at the position, Hall isn't a trash-talker, but don't mistake him, either, for a shrinking violet.

"I try to make stuff happen with my deeds, not my mouth, and that's usually enough," Hall said. "I mean, it's like this workout, right? I wasn't bragging about what I would go out and do. I just went out and did it. And I think (scouts) liked what they saw."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.