|Mark Humphrey / AP Photo|
|The bar is set high at Vanderbilt for promising cornerbacks like Andre Hal.|
HOOVER, Ala. -- When Andre Hal was a youngster at Vanderbilt, he and his fellow cornerbacks knew exactly which veteran to take after: Casey Hayward. Now that he's a senior, Vandy's young corners are looking to Hal for leadership.
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But he knows he doesn't have all the answers. In fact, he still speaks with Hayward -- now entering his second season with the Green Bay Packers -- on a regular basis.
"I learned to be a student of the game from Casey," Hal said. "He watched a lot of film. He knew what was coming before it came. I talk to him all the time."
Hayward enjoyed a stellar rookie season with Green Bay last year, recording six interceptions in only seven starts, and making 53 tackles over 16 games.
"He's one of the best cornerbacks I've ever seen play," Hal said. "His hips, his speed, change of direction, his knowledge of the game. He knew what was going on before it happened. Everybody (at Vanderbilt) wanted to do what Casey did."
Hal (6-0, 186) broke up 14 passes last season to lead Vandy. Against archrival Tennessee -- whom the Commodores have historically struggled mightily to beat -- he came up with a pair of interceptions in a 41-18 win. This season, he is a preseason candidate for the Thorpe Award, given to college football's most outstanding defensive back.
Hal believes he's the next in line to carry on a tradition of standout corners at Vandy. Before Hayward, it was D.J. Moore (2009 fourth-rounder to Bears). It began with Corey Chavous, a 1998 second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. A year later, Fred Vinson went in the second round to Green Bay. And while the lineage went 10 years without an NFL draftee between Vinson and Moore, the Commodores still maintained a strong SEC presence at the position.
"I feel like I'm next in line. I want to be next in line," Hal said. "You want that pressure to be the next cornerback coming out of Vanderbilt. We're known for cornerbacks."
So what has Hayward told Hal about the next level?
"He says it's a business (in the NFL), you've got to take care of your body, stretch every day, stay healthy," Hal said. "Because you can get booted at any time."
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.