Hill still may not play this year but will be back in '14

Coming off knee surgery, Arizona's leading receiver from 2012 still may not play this season.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- After he was relegated to the sideline for so long, Arizona receiver Austin Hill already has impacted the team is just a few days of practice this week.

"It was great," said Arizona All-American Ka'Deem Carey. "I saw him running routes and was excited. It actually made me want to practice harder today. He looked very good, too."

Arizona quarterback B.J. Denker said he "saw the smile" on Hill's face.

Whether Hill plays at any point this season is still up in the air and dependent on the strength of a left knee that suffered an ACL tear last spring. Arizona faces Washington State at noon Saturday.

As for suiting up against the Cougars, the junior Hill "was kind of ruling it out for now." But Hill did say he'll return next year for his senior season.

"I'm not afraid to say (that)," he said after practice. "I'm not done with college yet."

Hill went through a light practice Tuesday that he said went well. Wednesday, he said he'll go a little harder.

He said he will return for a senior season no matter if he plays this year or not.

"I'm not putting pressure on myself (to return)," he said. "It's really up to the knee right now. I have no say. It's just when I have confidence in it and I get strength back in it. It's still weak even though I've been cleared to practice."

The knee was little sore after practice, he said, but it's something he can work on with more practice.

"Being able to take a hit is probably the biggest thing (concern)," Hill said. "If I'm able to run and cut on it which I am able to right now, the next step is being able to be hit. That's the biggest concern in coming back. I know it needs to be to the point where it's strong enough to be tackled. I don't know if I'll be able to in a week."

So far, he's been doing well in his rehab, running well on it once he was allowed to and cutting on it once he was cleared to do that.

Hill, Arizona's top returning receiver from last year, wore a green practice jersey the past two days, signifying he wasn't completely back. He practiced lightly but didn't take any reps.

"He looked good in individual work," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Good to have him back."

Hill said it was good to be back, adding "I was happy all day knowing I'd be able to practice."

While out, Hill was in every team meeting and at each practices throughout the fall, working on the sidelines for a return.

Last year, he caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Hill said the biggest question is how to determine when he's ready to play when he hasn't faced contact.

"When I don't get tired, and I don't feel the difference between my left knee and my right knee during practice," he said. "Just being comfortable."

Hill said he's not ruling out playing this year, "just because that's not the mindset I need to have. Mentally, I want to come back and play, so I'll push myself to do that. If I don't come back, it will still be better for me because I'll still keep pushing.

"It kind of opened my eyes to the world we live in and the sport I play … that anything can be taken away from you at any given moment. I'm working harder than ever, and what I'll do next season. I might not have worked this hard just because I had a good season (last year). Now, I have to prove I'm even better than I was before I was injured."

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