As Southern Arizona's most famous high school football player, Adam Hall was known as much for his confidence as his stunning athletic ability.
He figured life as an Arizona Wildcats freshman would be easy.
"I wouldn't say I was cocky," Hall said, "but I was really confident that I was going to be able to do a lot of things."
It's taken a full year for the humbled Hall to factor into the Wildcats' defensive plans.
Hall, a 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound sophomore, opened training camp last week as a backup to Joseph Perkins at free safety. Hall's role could change again before the Wildcats' Sept.3 opener at Toledo. Robert Golden, the starting strong safety, has been taking snaps at cornerback in training camp. Should coaches decide to move Golden, Hall and true freshman Marquis Flowers could compete for playing time.
Hall is a versatile player with a nasty streak, co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown said.
"He's a big, rangy guy who can stick his face in there and tackle," Brown said. "We're looking for and expecting big things from Adam."
Hall was expecting big things from himself when he enrolled at the UA just over a year ago. A Parade All-American and two-way star as a senior at Palo Verde High School, Hall chose Arizona over offers from Alabama, California and USC. The UA coaches convinced Hall to play defense in college - a switch that, he figured, would get him on the field faster.
Hall said it took him "about three practices" to realize the college game was going to be harder. Hall played on special teams as a true freshman, but saw hardly any time on defense.
Off the field, Hall bristled at the idea of being a seen-but-not-heard newbie. His high school accolades - and confidence - rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way. Coaches went out of their way to make an example of Hall, the prize of the 2009 recruiting class, when he messed up.
"They really broke me down, broke my spirit," Hall said. "I was like, damn, this is ridiculous. But it was a good experience for me to see that."
Hall leaned on his fellow safeties, "my brothers on the team," during tough times.
Golden understood. Like Hall, Golden was a highly decorated high schooler who chose the Wildcats over offers from more prestigious programs. Both players expected to play as true freshmen - and were disappointed when it didn't happen.
Golden told Hall to wait for his chance, one that revealed itself this spring.
"Adam Hall's starting to listen a lot more now," he said. "He's starting to understand it's not high school ball anymore. … It's a process. It's about learning the plays and getting acquainted with the defense."
Hall's confidence is returning, seemingly with each snap. He made jaws drops in Monday's practice when he laid out tight end Jack Baucus on a passing route.
Hall has added 20 pounds of muscle, making him almost the exact same height and weight as former USC star Taylor Mays - his football idol.
The former Palo Verde star says he's a year wiser, too.
"I knew in high school that every time I stepped on the field, there was nobody who could stop me," he said. "I don't feel like there's anybody on the field, right now, who can stop me from doing what I want to do. It's not like it was in high school, but it will be someday."
TRAINING CAMP INSIDER
Day 5 at Rincon Vista Practice Complex
• Highlights: The Arizona Wildcats were understandably chippy in their first practice wearing full pads. Two fights broke out during 11-on-11 drills toward the end of Monday's practice at Rincon Vista. Coaches ended the workout following the second scuffle. Coach Mike Stoops said he wasn't surprised by the physicality. "Five days - you always get ornery after that," he said. Linebacker Derek Earls was impressive in team drills, registering an interception and two sacks and chasing down Travis Cobb - the team's fastest player - on a "fly sweep" play. Safety Adam Hall had two great plays within a few minutes of each other; he recovered a fumble, then laid out tight end Jack Baucus on a pass route. Nick Foles connected with Cobb for a 60-yard touchdown pass, easily the best throw-and-catch in camp so far. Backup quarterback Matt Scott continues to impress, though he fumbled a few center exchanges.
• Weather: 81 degrees and clear
• Injury report: Fullback Taimi Tutogi was carted off the field after spraining his left ankle during 11-on-11 drills. Stoops said Tutogi, who was in obvious pain, "is day-to-day and week-to-week." Wide receiver Juron Criner missed Monday's practice, a day after suffering a busted lip, facial lacerations and headache after getting hit by safety Robert Golden. Guards Conan Amituanai (knee sprain) and Vaughn Dotsy (back surgery) are closer to returning from their injuries.
• The big number: 0. Number of fullbacks on the Wildcats roster behind Tutogi, making his injury potentially concerning.
• What he said: "He's a big part of our offense," Stoops said. "We need him around to do the things we want to do."
The UA will hold its first scrimmage of training camp this morning at the renovated Jimenez Practice Facility. It is closed to the public.
• Today: 6:30 a.m. at Jimenez Practice Facility
• Wednesday: Team leaves for Fort Huachuca