UA's Hill doing his part while hoping to return this year
Ariz. -- Arizona's best wide receiver isn't catching any passes or running any
routes in camp, but he's helping.
Austin Hill, last year's breakout star at the
position, isn't sure if he'll return to the team this season because
of an ACL injury he suffered in the spring, but in the meantime, he's doing what he can for a
young, inexperienced group of receivers.
a junior, is anxious to get back on the field, but he also needs to be cautious
not to return too quickly and risk another injury.
For the same reason, Arizona is being careful with Hill's recovery even though he would bring much-needed stability to the position. He was
considered a potential All-American before tearing his ACL the week of the
spring game earlier this year.
said his chances of coming back this season are about "50-50," and if he does return, it wouldn't be until at least the midpoint of the season.
don't want to screw it up again -- coming back too early could mess up my
career," said Hill, who last year was a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff
Award, which goes to the nation's best receiver, after finishing with 81 catches and 11
touchdown receptions. "I'm trying to be smart with it right now."
The silver lining, Hill said, is that he's been able to work on lesser-noticed facets such as upper-body strength.
given me time on things I've needed to get better at and improve," he
off the field "isn't fun at all," Hill said. "It's just making me more hungry, making
me want to get out on the field."
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said Hill is not only valuable on the field but has shown his ability off the field in camp, tutoring some of the inexperienced players competing to temporarily fill his void.
not just that he’s a great player, but (it's) the leadership he can teach some
of these guys," Rodriguez said. "He’s been trying to do it from afar
in the locker room and stuff like that. When school starts, he’s allowed to
come to the meetings. He’s a sharp guy. He’ll be ready to go.”
he'll be ready -- if he'll be ready at all this year -- is anyone's guess. But Arizona should get some help at receiver before then in the form of sophomore David Richards, who has been recovering from a stress fracture in his leg that required surgery. He's missed all of camp but is projected to be back
around the second week of the season, assuming all continues to go well with his recovery.
not being out there," said
Richards, who's been on crutches throughout camp. "It's a struggle and a grind right now
Even if Richards returns quickly, there is a long
list of players competing to step into Hill's spot and take on a greater role this year: Garic Wharton, Johnny Jackson, Nate Phillips and Trey Griffey are among the candidates. But can they provide the Wildcats with as much playmaking ability as Hill did last season?
can be me," Hill said with a smile. "Just like I can't be anyone
else. I do have a lot of confidence in Johnny. The freshmen do show a lot of
promise. I was able to coach them up in the summer."
will have a "scrimmage" Saturday night that, according to Rodriguez, will really be more of a glorified walkthrough. Rodriguez has called it the "Beanie Bowl," noting that he's never lost one yet.
The Beanie Bowl gives everyone -- from the players to the coaches to the stadium operations staff
-- a chance for a dress rehearsal before next week’s game against Northern Arizona.
“Tomorrow’s scrimmage will mean absolutely nothing to us as far as
determining who is going to play,” Rodriguez said Friday. “It’s a glorified
walkthrough. We’ll have pads on and they’ll look good in their new uniforms.
Unless a guy just blows a gasket mentally, it will make us a little nervous.
But other than that, most of our evaluations are coming in practice, and
(Saturday) won’t be the end-all anyways."