LSU's Hill reluctant to take credit for big gains
Jeremy Hill has gotten used to having a curfew, part of a court-mandated lifestyle change which may have put LSU's top running back on track to play his best football yet.
The sixth-ranked Tigers are already benefiting from big plays by Hill, who only a couple months ago couldn't be sure whether legal trouble would ruin his college career.
Now, as Hill heads into LSU's biggest test yet at No. 9 Georgia this Saturday, the only question is when he'll break off another long run - given the touchdowns of 58 and 49 yards he's had in the past two weeks.
''I'm just doing the little things right, man, something I took for granted this spring,'' Hill said, referring to his arrest in late April for landing a punch outside a bar. ''I've worked on those things, man, and I'm just getting better as a person, as a football player. It's a day-by-day process and I'm just doing the right things and letting everything else take care of itself.''
Hill is a sophomore, but in his third year out of high school. What would have been his freshman season in 2011 was delayed by charges stemming from his sexual relationship with a then-14-year-old girl at his high school when he was 18.
His misdemeanor plea to carnal knowledge of a juvenile allowed him to enroll at LSU in 2012, and he became the Tigers' leading running back that season with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His second arrest cast doubt over his college career again, but in early August, a judge allowed Hill to remain free on a more restrictive probation that included a bar ban, a 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew (with exceptions for night games and team travel), and community service.
That left Hill's fate up to LSU coach Les Miles, who, with the backing of his players, allowed Hill back to practice immediately and benched him for only the season-opener against TCU.
Since then, Hill has looked progressively better. He scored on a 3-yard run on his first carry of the season against UAB and finished that game with 50 yards on only six carries in a reserve role. He started a week later against Kent State and responded with 117 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, including a 58-yard scoring run in which he exploded through a hole at the line of scrimmage, cut back against the pursuit and outran the secondary.
In LSU's Southeastern Conference opener against Auburn last weekend, Hill rushed for a career-high 184 yards and scored three touchdowns. One of his touchdowns went for 49 yards and he later broke off a 54-yard gain in which he was pushed out of bounds at the 1, setting up another score.
He's averaging 8.4 yards per carry and has been named the SEC offensive player of the week, but was reluctant to take credit for a performance in which he gained more yards in a game than any LSU rusher since Alley Broussard's school-record 250 yards in 2004.
''Just go watch those plays. The offensive line is driving people down the field and it's not me at all,'' Hill said. ''Anybody can run through those holes they're creating. It's just huge holes, man. I'm just reaping the benefit of those guys doing a great job up front.''
Still, Hill's teammates have used words like ''ridiculous'' to describe the sight of the powerful, 6-foot-2, 235-pound Hill moving with the speed and agility that he does.
''Jeremy is the type of back that every offense wants, with his ability and his vision,'' LSU receiver Jarvis Landry said. ''Once he gets past people and you actually see a big guy running ... it amazes me sometimes, just to watch him and see a skill level that may be one of the best in the country.''
There is a down side to Hill's on-the-field success - namely that the more he contributes to LSU's success, the more the Tigers will face questions about whether the program sacrificed certain social standards in pursuit of winning. Such questions could get old, but the Tigers have been unwavering in their support of Hill.
''You deal with it,'' said left guard Vadal Alexander. ''I'm just happy he's here now and he's doing great things. He's moved on. He's a humble guy. He's intelligent. He's fun to play with and I love him, so we're fine.''