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Air Force's 'hybrid' Hall quite a sight

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - Chad Hall has bad eyes, at least by Air Force's rigorous standards for pilots.

Yet his vision on the field has been out of sight this season.

The Falcons senior running back-receiver is the only player in the country to lead his team in both rushing (1,122 yards) and receiving (426). He set a school record for rushing in a game last week when he gained 275 yards against Army, breaking the mark of 256 he set earlier in the season against Colorado State.

'He is a heck of a running back and does well as a wide receiver,' Army coach Stan Brock said.

Time to settle this once and for all - is he a receiver or a tailback?

Hall just grinned. Even he doesn't know how to classify himself. The Wesleyan grad has lined up out wide, in the slot, deep in the backfield and next to the fullback and has even taken direct snaps this season. He's officially listed as the team's z-receiver, which is similar to a slot receiver.

'I practice with the receivers,' Hall said. 'I start every game as the z-receiver. Technically, I'm still a receiver.'

But how many receivers get 160 carries, though?

'We just call him a hybrid,' Air Force teammate and roommate Garrett Rybak said. 'It's easier.'

Hall hasn't been easy to bring down this season. He's averaged 192.8 yards a game over his last five contests. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis expects to see quite a bit of Hall on Saturday when the Fighting Irish host Air Force.

'They're going to get the ball in his hands,' Weis said. 'He accounts for about half their offense.'

It took some time for Falcons coach Troy Calhoun to figure out how to best utilize the diminutive Hall, who stands a generous 5-foot-8 and weighs 180 pounds. For the first five games of the season, Calhoun used him primarily as a receiver, and he caught 25 passes for 281 yards.

The Falcons needed more explosiveness out of their offense, so Calhoun decided give him more carries against UNLV to see what he could do. Hall rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He also caught four passes for 44 yards.

Problem solved. Since taking a more predominant role in the offense, Hall has been Mountain West Conference offensive player of the week three times.

'It's worked out well,' Hall saidl. 'I've enjoyed every minute of this.'

Hall might have been the starting tailback from the opening whistle had he not missed spring practice because of a slight meniscus tear in his knee. Calhoun, who was taking over the program for the retired Fisher DeBerry, didn't know exactly what he had in Hall.

Now, he does.

'Chad Hall is an academy kid,' Calhoun said. 'He will fight and claw and scratch to get the job done.'

The versatility of Hall spills over into the return game as well. He's third in the league in punt returns with a 13.5-yard average. He's also averaging 21.4 yards on kick returns, but doesn't have enough returns to qualify for a conference ranking.

Hall has already set the school's single-season mark for all-purpose yards with 1,961, eclipsing the old record of 1,735 yards set by Cormac Carney in 1978.

'He's really quick,' said Army linebacker Brian Chmura, whose team surrendered 333 all-purpose yards to Hall, a single-game record at Air Force. 'He has some jukes on him. He's a good back.'

The fact he runs so low to the ground is Hall's best attribute. He's quick and tough to spot through a sea of converging linemen.

But his height has been called into question on more than one occasion.

'I always feel like I had to prove myself,' Hall said. 'I'm glad coach Calhoun gave me an opportunity to prove myself back there.'

Over the summer, Hall went through Academy Flight Screening, an intense program used to evaluate a cadet's potential as a future pilot. He spent five demanding weeks learning to fly a plane the equivalent of a Cessna.

He loved every minute of it.

'It's great being up in the air,' he said. 'Who gets to do that every day? It's one of the perks of going here.'

However, he said that if he wanted to become a pilot he'd have to receive a medical waiver. Turns out, he has problems with depth perception.

When asked if his vision hampers him on the field, Hall simply said, 'Nope. Not at all.'

Judging by his recent performances, that's plain to see.