Wildcats lose star receiver Hill to torn ACL
TUCSON, Ariz. – It was a pretty good day for the Arizona offense Saturday, as the annual spring game featured 561 total yards and a solid performance by the frontrunner at quarterback, B.J. Denker, as well as a nominal win over the defense in front of 4,095 fans at Frank Sancet Stadium.
All was not warm and fuzzy, though. After the scrimmage, coach Rodriguez
confirmed that Austin Hill, last season’s breakout star at receiver, suffered a torn ACL in Wednesday’s practice and will soon undergo surgery. It’s not clear
when he’ll be back, but it's possible that he'll miss the season. The 6-foot-3 Hill tied a school record with 11
receiving touchdowns and had 81 catches for 1,364 yards last season.
Denker said losing “a big weapon” will be tough, and Rodriguez concurred.
it's an ACL tear, which makes me sick because he (is) such a great
player," Rodriguez said. "It wasn't the ACL, MCL and all that -- it was
just the ACL. He'll have surgery as soon as possible and get going on
rehab. I don't know what his time frame is to return, but he'll be back
bigger and stronger with the way the technology is today.
"I really felt
bad for him, but our guys will bounce back. Austin is a big, tough guy,
and he’ll bounce back.”
Fellow receiver Tyler Slavin was all but at a loss for words over the injury to Hill, his friend since high school in California.
just hurts (when) you lose someone like that,” Slavin said. "... We’re
going to see how it plays out. I’m not going to say that I’m going to
replace anybody or (there will be) the next big guy. We’re just going to
see how it is. I always expect to me big plays.”
And he did, scoring on a 97-yard pass from Denker early in the scrimmage.
Big plays were limited, although Denker was consistent throughout in his
quest to stay in the lead among the quarterback hopefuls. Denker, a
senior, finished 13 for 20 for 246 yards with four touchdowns.
thought B.J. did OK today,” Rodriguez said. “He was pretty sharp. I’ve
seen him make a lot of strides this spring, getting more confident,
having great eye discipline, making the right decisions. There were a
couple of throws he’d wish to have back, but he’s had a solid spring.”
said he felt “good and confident,” adding that the defense had defeated
the offense badly in practice earlier in the week “and had a little more
intensity, so it was good to come out and whoop their butts.”
all was perfect, as there were a number of overthrows and fundamental mistakes,
but that's to be expected in spring ball. And Rodriguez said as many as 22 players were held
out because of injuries along with another seven or eight not seeing the field for purely precautionary reasons. Starters Jake Fischer (linebacker) and Ka’Deem
Carey (running back) did not play.
Meanwhile, it took all of one throw for transfer quarterback Jesse Scroggins to know – realize, maybe – it’s going to take some time to get fully acclimated. His first pass Saturday was intercepted, with veteran Tra’Mayne Bondurant stepping in front of the receiver for the pick.
Scroggins turned to Rodriguez and said, “I’m still learning, I’m still learning.”
Rodriguez joked that Scroggins said it “before I had a chance to yell at him.”
But, indeed, Scroggins still was and is learning. The former USC backup finished 6 for 17 for 44 yards with two touchdowns and the one interception, and Rodriguez said afterward that Scroggins, who's in the mix at quarterback but is far behind Denker because of limited availability this spring, will “be OK.”
With many players absent and some other getting their first game-like snaps, the scrimmage offered Rodriguez a chance to look at a lot of untested players, including Scroggins, a 6-foot-3 junior.
“It was my first live rep ... things are moving fast for me, so I just tried to adjust to it, and I felt more comfortable (over time),” said Scroggins, who underwent foot surgery earlier this semester after transferring.
He had been in a protective boot for most of the spring until recently, when he started doing some light work on the field. Three offensive drives into Saturday’s scrimmage, he was called in.
Scroggins, too, had something to do with that, as he asked UA quarterbacks coach Rod Smith if he could go in. Smith went to Rodriguez, and Rodriguez gave him the nod.
Scroggins said he’s ready to compete with Denker, who was impressed with Scroggins’ strong arm. But Denker, too, is ready for the competition.
“It’s not over,” Denker said. “I’m going to go into it this offseason and work hard and be the best quarterback for this job.”
As for the game itself, Rodriguez said it was all about improvement.
"It was ugly at times, but it was also fun,” Rodriguez said. “We got better. We see it more as a practice than a true game or scrimmage. We made some steps this spring. It was fun to watch.”