If you haven’t had a chance to see Hill play, you should make a point to watch him and the Cougars this fall. Anyhow, here’s more about why I am very intrigued by Hill and his team in 2015.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pound senior is 24 and will turn 25 before the season starts. He committed to Stanford back in 2009 when Jim Harbaugh was the coach but never made it there. Instead, he went on a mission to Australia. Last season, he completed 67 percent of his passes and accounted for 15 TDs and just three INTs in less than five games before being sidelined for the season due to a broken leg. The Cougars were 4-0 and ranked in the top 20 when Hill went down. When I saw Bronco Mendenhall last month, he was excited about his star’s recovery, adding that Hill’s the fastest guy in the program.
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One coach who faced Hill last year said as impressive as the guy looked on film, you just don’t get a sense of how special he is until you see him in person and realize how big and just how fast he is.
On Thursday morning I spoke to another coach very familiar with Hill. Zac Spavital, the former DB coach at Houston now at Texas Tech, faced Hill twice. In 2013, Hill threw for 417 yards against UH and ran for another 128 — and that was against the nation’s No. 20 ranked defense. Last year, the Cougars did a much better job of coping with Hill. They limited him to 200 yards passing and 160 rushing.
The Cougars even had a nickname for Hill: Thor.
"Physically, he’s unbelievable," said Spavital. "He’s just so strong and he’s also extremely fast. We had good calls on third-and-short and he just ran through you. He’s a lot of fun to watch. He’s kind of a fireball out there. He’s so competitive and cocky, but he backs it up.
"We played him, (Blake) Bortles and (Teddy) Bridgewater in the same year, and he was just as good."
Spavital also credits how BYU uses Hill within its system. "With their spread, he can throw it accurately down field and he’s a lot more accurate than you might think with a strong arm. And it’s like what Kliff (Kingsbury) did with Johnny (Manziel at Texas A&M). He’ll check 4-Verticals to set up his runs. He’s actually more dangerous on those broken pass plays than on the designed runs."
Couple Hill with the return of four starters on the O-line; RB Jamaal Williams (who has a chance to finish his career as BYU’s all-time leading rusher); and a towering crew of receivers, and that’s why I find the Cougars to be one of the more fascinating teams to keep an eye on in 2015, especially in September when they have perhaps the toughest opening month of anyone in college football, going to Nebraska, UCLA and Michigan, plus a visit from Boise State.