Austin Hill lined up in his usual slot position to the right of quarterback Connor Brewer. Twelve months removed from a torn ACL, Hill survived six weeks of spring drills with no damage and was a spring game away from a completely clean slate.
He ran his route properly, shook a defender and got open. Brewer lofted a ball that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity. When it finally came down, Hill went to catch it and took a vicious hit from safety Blake Brady.
The 7,100 fans inside Arizona Stadium got quiet very quickly as the pass fell incomplete. After a few seconds, Hill got to his feet and jogged back to the line of scrimmage.
“Yeah, that shouldn’t have happened,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We told our guys we were live, but we didn’t want any blow-up shots. But I think the guy was just going for the ball and kinda ran into him. I didn’t even know it was Austin until I saw him. He popped up and he was good.
“In a strange way for Austin and some of the guys coming off injuries, you almost need to get that one time so you get your confidence back. So hopefully that happened.”
Hill didn’t play any more after the play. The Corona, Calif., product failed to make a catch in the game, but proved he’s healthy and ready to move forward.
The Wildcats are certainly eager to get his production back in the lineup after he missed all of last season with his knee injury.
“It was one of my top goals to get through spring healthy, and I did,” Hill said. “I’m happy and now I’m ready to move on and get better over the summer and move onto camp and get better and work out of this brace.”
Hill will continue to build strength in his knee in the weight room and work with the quarterbacks and his fellow wide receivers on their own in the summer.
He was happy to give fans a look of the UA’s talented receiving corps on Saturday.
“It’s crazy that everyone is seeing this right now because we talk about it, but we’re not public with how great we think we can be,” Hill said.
“I think spring got us really ready. We’ve grown as a family in the receivers room. The competition is going to be crazy during camp, so we’re going to get even better.”
Welcome back Ka’Deem
As Ka’Deem Carey walked out of Arizona Stadium after Saturday’s spring game, the one face that’s more recognizable than him — former baseball superstar Ken Griffey Jr. — stopped him.
The two embraced and chatted for a bit.
Carey, who’s preparing for the NFL draft by working out at the UA, took in Saturday’s spring game from the field. He signed autographs for fans for nearly 30 minutes after the game and watched the game with his mom, Tisha, and his agent Kenny Zuckerman.
Carey has seen his stock fall in recent months by draft analysts and experts, but Zuckerman said he’s less concerned with what round Carey is drafted in, but rather which team selects him. Zuckerman said Carey has worked out for a few teams in the last month or so, but hasn’t had a heavy load.
Carey, who said the recent months have been “hectic but exciting,” will watch the draft in Tucson with family and friends.
He shared a humorous exchange with former UA linebacker Lance Briggs, who was also at the game. Briggs, now a Pro Bowler with the Chicago Bears, told Carey he hoped he was drafted by the Bears, but if not, “watch out.”
Like last year, Rodriguez ventured into the crowd, and let the fans pick a couple of plays to have the team run. All the plays were executed from inside the 20-yard line.
On six plays called, by six different fans, the UA failed to score on four of them.
“Well, four of them are gonna have bad coaches’ shows this week,” Rodriguez joked.
- Wide receiver/running back
- T.J. Johnson
- was held out of Saturday’s spring game with a sprained ankle.