Remember the early days of former Texas Longhorns safety Kenny Vaccaro's career?
The special teams penalties, big hits, and overall recklessness?
For those Horns fans missing the unpredictability of a young Vaccaro, meet freshman safety Jason Hall.
After earning first-team snaps during fall camp following a high school career that saw him rated as a consensus low-three-star prospect, Hall seemed to fall behind sophomore safeties Adrian Colbert and Dylan Haines when the season started against North Texas and the South Grand Prairie product was nowhere to be found except on special teams.
Enter Hall against UCLA.
Noticing the arrival of the 6'2, 207-pounder wasn't difficult, especially for Bruins players who felt the impact of several big hits when Hall got playing time early in the second quarter after it became apparent that UCLA was going to heavily feature the running game with back-up quarterback Jerry Neuheisel in for star starter Brett Hundley.
The Bruins manage to convert a 3rd and 9 with a swing pass to running back Paul Perkins for a 14-yard gain, at the end of which Hall sticks him with a perfect form tackle in the open field.
The hit was the first on-field evidence supporting the assumption that Hall made his move during the fall in large part because of his striking ability, which was a strength of his in high school.
On the next play, Hall comes downhill on a run blitz and slows up the running back in the backfield before senior linebacker Jordan Hicks is able to bring down the ball-carrier.
Then, on 3rd and 14 with the Bruins hoping to convert another long down-and-distance situation, head coach Charlie Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford send Hall on a blitz.
Able to use his quickness to beat the running back to the spot in pass protection, Hall manages to pull down Neuheisel even with a glancing blow for a big seven-yard loss.
Against a bigger, stronger quarterback like Texas will see against Baylor in several weeks, the effort may not be good enough and may require a better last-second change of direction, but it is unquestionably good enough here.
Like Vaccaro, Hall is reckless getting to the ball, willing to run through whichever players happen to get in his way on his quest for a tackle. On this screen pass, Hall closes on the pass-catcher and knocks off another wide receiver attempting to block.
Don't get in Jason Hall's way.
However, Hall's aggressiveness also produced some mistakes on special teams.
Directly after his successful series illustrated above, the freshman safety runs into the UCLA punter, a dangerous penalty that could have easily resulted in the Bruins being awarded 15 yards and a first down.
Later in the quarter, the Horns had gained momentum for the first time in the game with the touchdown pass to junior tight end MJ McFarland that resulted in a 10-3 lead.
Just when it appeared that Texas had forced a three-and-out on the ensuing UCLA possession, Hall runs into the kicker once again, this time producing a first down with the five-yard penalty. Instead of getting the ball back with good field position and a chance to stretch the lead before halftime, the Bruins end up killing the clock.
Neither penalty was ultimately that impactful to the game, but as a similar penalty against Texas cornerback Bryson Echols last year against BYU proved, running into or roughing kickers to extend drives can change games. The Cougars scored a touchdown on that particular drive and the route was on.
So while the big hits from Hall provide a physicality in the Texas secondary that hasn't been there to that extent since Vaccaro roamed the defensivev backfield for the Horns, Hall has to learn to take proper angles on the punt block unit or risk a truly game-changing penalty.
And he also missed a tackle on the 58-yard run that Hicks helped to allow with a missed tackle of his own.
There's some necessary growth left for Hall mentally and it remains to be seen how he operates in coverage in space.
Based on his efforts against UCLA, though, he's a player who can provide a physical presence as an in-the-box safety and deliver some big-time hits, the likes of which Texas fans haven't seen in several years.
The Jason Hall Experience will likely have some more bumps, but he'll be able to make up for that if he can keep making plays.