NAPLES — Steve Pricer shies away from comparisons. Judging a player by one that came before him, the Lely coach said, can put too much pressure on a high school kid.
After a stellar junior season that led to a commitment to the University of Miami, Trojans running back Darion Hall already has enough expectations for his senior year. Pricer hates to add to the pressure, but when he watches Hall play, he can’t help but think of another Collier County running back who went on to stardom with the Hurricanes.
“He does remind me of Edgerrin James,” Pricer said, likening Hall to the Immokalee graduate who became the first Miami back to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. “He’s a big strong kid. Edgerrin wasn’t a dipsy-doodle type runner. He was a slasher, a sprinter and he’d run over people, and that’s the way (Hall) is, too.”
James, an NFL free agent, has risen to 11th in all-time rushing in 10 seasons as a pro. Hall would love to have that resume, but his sole focus now is the upcoming season.
Unknown before his junior year, Hall caught many off guard last fall by leading Collier County in rushing with 1,791 yards in his first season in the Lely backfield. He also led the Trojans to the state playoffs for the first time in three years.
With his college choice behind him, Hall is looking forward to an even better season before heading off to Miami.
“It’s going to be a big year this year,” Hall said with a smile. “It’s my senior year, and the team’s coming together. We have another good back in Frankie Pugh, and he’s going to help me out.”
Though few knew his name last September, they learned quickly. Hall rushed for 725 yards and seven touchdowns in his first three games last season. He hit the 1,000-yard mark halfway through the year.
Hall fell short of his goal of 2,000 rushing yards, but sat out the final game of the regular season to rest for the playoffs. He finished with 2,419 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns.
His first goal this season is to help Lely make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for just the third time in the school’s history. Hall added, though, he’d love to reach the 2,000-yard mark.
“Since I didn’t get it last year, that motivated me this year,” said Hall, who added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason and is up to 200 pounds.
Pricer, who enters his 33rd season at Lely, has seen a progression of Collier County running backs who have gone on to play for the Hurricanes. He coached against James and current Miami senior Javarris James, Edgerrin's cousin, when they were at Immokalee.
Price even watched Albert Bentley, another Immokalee grad who played at Miami who became the first Collier County product drafted in 1984. The Trojans’ coach said Hall compares favorably to all of them.
What’s made Hall stand out this summer, Pricer said, is his leadership.
“He’s been a very good leader all summer and in camp,” Pricer said. “He’s always been a real solid kid for us. We couldn’t be happier.”
As the best returning back in the area, Hall knows all eyes will be on him once Lely starts the season Sept. 4 at Miami-Gulliver Prep. Hall is ranked the 72nd-best senior football player in the country by recruiting site Rivals.com. Rivals also ranks the Trojans star the 49th-best senior running back and the seventh-best in Florida.
For Lely fans worried Hall’s commitment to Miami could bring even more attention -- and thus pressure -- to him, Hall said agreeing to the Hurricanes will have the opposite effect.
“It’s going to make me focus more,” Hall said. “It’s going to make me push myself to show Miami I’m still the guy they want.”