After only one season playing quarterback in a run-oriented offense, JSerra Catholic senior-to-be Jake Hall is swiftly establishing himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the state, perhaps the nation.
And wait 'till you get a load of the Newport Beach resident in a new version of the "pistol" offense the Lions will run this fall. That was the offense seen last season at No. 11 University of Nevada, run by Colin Kaepernick, selected in the NFL Draft's second round by theSan Francisco 49ers.
On Thursday through Saturday at Warhill High in Williamsburg, Va., the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Hall will be one of 30 quarterbacks participating in the Football University Top Gun All-Star Football Camp. He qualified for the camp after being the only quarterback invited from a camp that was held Feb. 18-20 at Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, where he worked with Tom Martinez, the private QB coach of New England Patriots quarterbackTom Brady.
The camp also provides on-field training with former NFL and college coaches, classroom sessions, NFL player symposium and individual performance analysis.
Hall will earn a profile on Rivals.com, film of his work will be sent to at least 400 college coaches for evaluation, and he could possibly be among eight quarterbacks competing for one spot in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January 2012 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
"It's an honor," said Hall, who played in the Newport Mesa Junior All-American program growing up. "I've just enjoyed playing this game so much and to be considered among the best, it's an honor."
Hall is definitely looking forward to playing in the Top Gun camp, which can only help him improve his skills. Last season as a first-year starter, Hall passed for 1,316 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions, with 87-for-160 (54.4%) accuracy as the Lions went 5-5, 0-5 in the always tough Trinity League. League champion Servite played in the CIF Open Division state bowl game.
Hall also participated in the ESPN RISE Elite 11 regional competition in May at Cal. As a sophomore in 2010, he was in the finals of the Steve Clarkson Dreammaker Super 7 QB competition and was named to its "All-Field General" team. As a seventh-grader, he also worked with USC quarterback and former Mater Dei player Matt Barkley, who is also from Newport Beach.
"It's a great opportunity to compete against some of the top talent," Hall said. "It's going to be so much fun, I've been looking forward to it a lot."
JSerra Coach Jim Hartigan said the camps can only help Hall grow and improve. Hartigan believes Hall can take his game to the next level.
"He has the potential to be as good as I have ever coached," said Hartigan, who was a three-time CIF Central Section champion at Clovis West in Fresno and who coached NFL star Carson Palmer while at Santa Margarita. "He has unlimited potential. I'm very excited about his future."
The pistol offense was installed in part due to Hall's skills and to keep things fresh and fun for the entire team.
"It's a changeup that better fits our skill players," Hartigan said. "With Jake's athleticism and throwing ability, we are planning on doing a lot more things offensively."
Hall is being recruited by several schools, including the top five colleges for him at this moment — in no particular order, Nevada, Arizona State, Oregon State, San Diego State and Maryland.
Oh yeah, he's on the college radar all right.
"I have no preference right now, and that could change any day," Hall said. "It's whoever takes interest in me and we can build upon that once they start recruiting [more heavily] and I can come see the campus and I can get to know their coaching staffs but right now there's no college I'm really leaning towards."
He's also been looked at by UCLA, where his mother, Jo Hall, played as a golfer.
Jake said he is not 100% sure on what he wants to major in yet, but he's leaning toward business, but added that having a very strong business school is "not at all" a deciding factor.
Greg Hall, Jake's father, said Ivy League schools were also looking at him, speaking to how good of a student he has been. He said all the Bruin alums in the family have shown interest in him going to UCLA but that "he's not at the top of their list."
Greg Hall also said he was very impressed with Nevada and with Wolfpack Coach Chris Ault, a College Football Hall of Famer and the pistol-offense originator. Ault is the second-oldest coach in the NCAA to Penn State's Joe Paterno. Nevada finished 7-1 and tied for first in the Western Athletic Conference (13-1 overall). Ault is among four active coaches to have won 200 career games.
Jake has quarterbacks in the family tree, with great-grandfather Jay Hornbeak, Jo Hall's grandfather, an NFL defensive back who played six games in 1935 with the Brooklyn Dodgers, and who in 1933 was an All-American quarterback who played on the "Eleven Iron Men" team that played the full 60 minutes without one substitution, in a 6-0 victory over Stanford. Jay Hornbeak died in 1990.
Jake's grandfather, Grant Hornbeak, was a former Newport Harbor High quarterback in the early 1960s.
For now, it's back to high school, where last season he was seen zipping passes between two defenders into fairly tight windows (watch him on YouTube).
The pistol offense places a significant emphasis on misdirection, relying on read options by the quarterback. For example, if the quarterback sees a defensive end will attack the running back, he can take off and run, whereas if the end goes for the quarterback, Hall can hand it off to his back. JSerra's version won't require quite as much running as Nevada's does, but its hopes that defenses will find it tough to stop is still there.
"The way it's run, it causes havoc for defenses," Hall said. "For us to put it in, it's going to really test them and if we rise to the occasion, it should be very hard to stop us. It's a great offense, I feel like I fit in this offense and I like it a lot. I've never seen a team run the pistol in three years that I've played. Our coaches have morphed it more into a simpler version. It's really cool how he implements our skill sets. It's very distracting to defenses."
Hall credits a nice slew of receivers, including leading receiver and star defensive back Jonavaughn Williams, a senior-to-be who had 22 receptions for 223 yards and three touchdowns last season. Williams has attracted from schools such as Arizona State, Colorado, Washington, Oregon State and San Diego State. Senior-to-be Chas Harmon also figures to play an important role.
"I have great receivers who are very smart," Hall said. "Jonavaughn is my best friend and we have this connection that keeps building and building. It's starting to get difficult for defenses to stop. I have good receivers that know their stuff, who know the ins and outs of defenses and they're very athletic. We look at each other where, if we see a coverage, we'll both adjust on the fly … everyone's expectation on our team is to make the playoffs. It's a really tough league, it's an opportunity to grow against competition. It's what's made me improve so much."