Coach: Ricardo Hallman 'is a Natural Football Player'

Jake Kocorowski

A dynamic offensive player.

That is how Fort Lauderdale (FL) University School head coach Daniel Luque described Ricardo Hallman as a ninth grader when he first met the future all-state cornerback.

Now just a couple of months before the scheduled start of the 2020 season, Luque noted how Hallman "turned into his own on the defensive side of the field, but the cool thing about him is once he gets his hands on the ball, whether it's offense or defense, he's going to do something with it."

Now Hallman is in line to sign as a Badger, as the South Florida corner announced his decision to commit to Wisconsin as part of its 2021 class. He is the second projected member of the secondary in this recruiting cycle, joining Muskego, Wis., four-star safety Hunter Wohler.

Luque sees Hallman, a four-star prospect according to Rivals, as "very instinctive." He believes that comes from some of his offensive traits.

"Coach (Arturo) Freeman, his positional coach who played at South Carolina and played a number of years in the league, has done a really good job in helping him change his game and adding that defensive back component to this repertoire," Luque said last week.

"The kid is a natural football player. People that don't know, that's Frank Gore's stepson so he's been in a household of (a) football family. His mother, Vondricka, is a wonderful woman who works extremely hard, and she always puts that tough love on him so he has a different mindset when he attacks that field. He has a different mindset in training mode because of the surroundings that he's been around."

From Luque's perspective, Hallman's development as a leader has been "tremendous" and his mindset has changed. That is after being named a first-team all-state performer as a junior, along with claiming first-team all-county honors by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and second-team (5A-Ind.) distinctions by the Miami Herald. 

"So to have that push of how well he did and displayed his talent has really motivated him to be even that much better and more prepared as a player," Luque said.

Luque also stated that his standout defensive back has already put on about 10 pounds of muscle and believes he is ready for a breakout season to end his high school career. 

For a player like Hallman, who claimed those all-state accolades and recorded eight interceptions as junior, "it's gonna be a challenge to try to beat that, but if anybody can do it, it would be Ricardo Hallman," Luque said.

In the Sharks' defense, Luque stated how Freeman -- who played college football at South Carolina before suiting up for six seasons in the NFL -- runs the secondary and utilizes "a lot of cover four" and man-to-man coverage.

"We switch it up. We go from a 3-4 defense, we can play a lot of nickel and dime and switch it up and bring a lot of pressure from different areas," Luque said. "The instinctive part that Ricardo has, you can't really coach that. He's always in position to make plays, and it showed last year."

One of those plays Luque recalled came during a August 2019 contest against Hialeah where he hauled an interception for a significant score.

"He had a pick-six, which was huge that put us up by 21 points," Luque said. "The team came roaring back because our quarterback got a concussion that game. I believe that interception for a touchdown really saved us from losing that game. 

"Of course his last game of the season, he had three interceptions in one game, so I mean, you can't knock off that either. I think he broke the school record with having three interceptions in one game."

When asked last week how Wisconsin has recruited Hallman, Luque -- who also coached UW cornerback Faion Hicks for his first two seasons of high school -- noted how defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard visited the school twice.

"He is charismatic in the way he talks, and he brought a different feel when he came down here as opposed to some of the other coaches that come through," Luque said of Leonhard. "So that was one thing that attracted Ricardo I think a lot. Him being the defensive coordinator as well, how he would use him in the defensive back position and whatnot, so I think that was an integral part in all this process."

Luque believes Wisconsin is "a name that speaks for itself" and called out how it seems the team "always" participates in Big Ten championship games. Being a self-described "West Coast guy," he mentioned his familiarity with the program as he has seen the Badgers head to the Rose Bowl. 

With Hallman's commitment, the young corner is set to join recent defensive backs like Hicks, Semar Melvin, James Williams and Rachad Wildgoose as others from the region to play for Wisconsin in the Big Ten.

"It's been a great place for South Florida kids to go out there and develop and become someone, so definitely an attractive hotspot down here."

Editor's note, Jul. 1: Clarified Hallman's distinctions as a junior in the 2019 season.