UA’s Austin Hill, catching a pass vs. Oklahoma State in 2012, got “stronger” while sitting out 2013.
The question has been the same for months now, but the answer still hasn’t changed.
When will junior receiver Austin Hill return to the lineup for Arizona?
The answer: Nobody really knows.
Hill tore his left ACL during spring drills and missed the entire regular season recovering from the injury. There was a slim chance he would return for the final game or two of the regular season, but his knee didn’t cooperate.
Now with the AdvoCare V100 Bowl set for Dec. 31, could Hill return and at least salvage one game in 2013?
It doesn’t seem likely.
“He’s done more; he’s actually now in next-to-live situations,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “He’s going up and getting the ball. We’re not hitting him or anything like that, but he looks a lot closer to being ready.
“I don’t know if at this point if he’s going to play in the last game or not, but I sure think he’s on the track to being 100 percent.”
But there is one certainty with Hill — he will be back in a UA uniform for 2014.
Hill said Sunday after practice that he didn’t file paperwork with the NFL’s draft advisory board and isn’t considering entering his name in May’s draft.
“I know where I stand with that,” Hill said. “Teams just say I have to gain my confidence back. They just have to have confidence that I can be the same dynamic player, so I need one more year to do that and I have one more year to do that.
“I have to gain it back and do some big things next year.”
Last season as a redshirt sophomore, Hill was Matt Scott’s go-to man, catching 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was hoping to build on that and help an inexperienced quarterback gain confidence this season before the injury.
Instead, he’s done a lot rehab and waiting.
Before he was cleared to practice, Hill would stand on the sideline and catch passes from a machine and watch practice. He was cleared for some drills last month and has increased his activity each week.
But it still remains a stretch that Hill will be 100 percent before the UA’s game against Boston College in the AdvoCare Bowl.
“I always want to play,” Hill said. “I wanted to play in the first game of the season, but if my knee and my mind aren’t ready for it, I’m not going to push myself to do it. I just have to progress to hitting and getting tackled. They probably won’t let me do that until the first game, so it’ll probably be a while until I know if I’m 100 percent or not.”
Hill said he’s not ruling out the bowl game entirely and with more than two weeks until gametime, anything can happen. But he also has to remain realistic.
“I’m not going to say for sure yes or no,” the receiver said. “I’m trying to gain as much confidence in it as possible. I have a while. I can make strides next week. It’s all up to my tendon and my knee.”
Either way, Hill has at least started to peek ahead to his senior season in 2014.
The receiver, who can’t take a medical redshirt because he already redshirted, said he’s worked with quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Connor Brewer outside of practice. Hill is trying gain chemistry with both signal-callers and wants to be on the same page with whoever is the starter next season after B.J. Denker departs.
“I always have good conversations with Anu and Connor,” Hill said. “They’re great guys. I still need to figure them out a little bit more. We don’t have as many plays during practice to get things down.
“I’m looking forward to the spring and summer when we can come out here and work on that receiver-quarterback relationship.”
When that happens, Rodriguez thinks Hill will be better than ever.
Even though he was sidelined with the injury and couldn’t do much, Rodriguez sees a stronger and smarter receiver.
“He’s gotten bigger in the upper-body because he had time to lift, so he’s gotten a little bit bigger and stronger,” Rodriguez said. “He didn’t just sit by. He watched film and he watched practice. He’s a student of the game. He understands football.
“I expect him to have a huge year next year.”
- Rodriguez, who coached at Michigan from 2008-10, enjoyed Arizona’s basketball win over the Wolverines on Saturday.
The hoops program gave a virtual salute to Rodriguez after the win, tweeting from its official account @APlayersProgram: “The game ball goes to Coach Rich Rod for our win today. #BearDown.”
Rodriguez said he texted with Sean Miller afterward, which is a usual occurrence and was proud of the Wildcats for the victory.
“That was a good win, let’s put it that way,” a smiling Rodriguez said. “That was really a proud moment for me.”
- Khari McGee
- , who came in as a quarterback and was moved to receiver after fall camp, is likely to stay at receiver moving forward, Rodriguez said.
“I think he’ll be pretty good there,” Rodriguez said of the Fresno, Calif., product, who redshirted this season.