Gators' Will Hill Ready to Step Up

Jay HendryCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2010

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 12:  Will Hill #10 of the Florida Gators lines up during the game against the Troy Trojans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 12, 2009 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

College football is a wonderful thing. The fight songs, the student sections, the way the players kill themselves on every play, and the way that championships are decided by BCSkynet, an advanced AI with a goal of frustrating all humans all make is better than the professional alternative (NFL).

Wait, how did that last one get in there? That's the only item on my "Ten things I hate about college football" list. Once I get 10, expect a slideshow.

Anyway, college football is great. The thing that makes it oh-my-god-I-have-to-wake-up-Saturday-morning-and-get-to-a-TV/tailgate-at-10AM-I-don't-care-if-you're-hungover-move-it-move-it-move-it! great is the way an entire era is wrapped up into three to four years.

For those of you who watch the professional alternative, those dynasty years are great. The problem is, the years of high 20s/low 30s first round draft picks eventually catch up and you slog through a down period until your team lands the next franchise QB. 

Free Agency has quelled this to a point, but Bucs/Jags/Rams/ fans can all tell you that the system still sends you off of a cliff at some point.

College football is like that at super speed. Your team makes it to the top, players leave, new guys step up, they become heroes, repeat, repeat, repeat (then your coach leaves and your team falls apart).

The valley is a year, or at most two years, for programs that remain at the top. That means for every three years where a fan can say "We're going to go to the 'ship!", you've got one year where that fan says "We're competing for a conference title!".

Why did you just read a seven paragraph introduction that was as off–topic as off–topic gets considering the title of this piece?

I don't know; why did you? I'm your maniacal new dictator and this sort of Les Miles–ish inconsistency is what you can expect from now on.

Okay, I'm done cackling madly. Time for an actual explanation.

Florida is in the one year valley right now. If this were Friday Night Lights, then the Gators just lost the entire cast of main characters.

Okay, if this were Friday Night Lights, then the main characters would still inexplicably hang around Gainesville and might even sneak in and dress against Alabama or something. 

Look down, look back up. We've shifted gears and are back on topic. 

Defensively, the Gators lost their leader (Spikes), their best player (Haden), the physical stud who is impossibly good but takes plays off and has character issues (Dunlap), the big hitter (Wright), and the consistently good but never outstandingly great veteran (Cunningham).

Actually, that sounds exactly like Friday Night Lights.

Look down again, back up. We're on a practice field watching the Gators scrimmage.

John Brantley is about to complete a beautiful deep pass. This is the kind of ball that makes Urban Meyer like people. Look at it fly; it's so perfect.

Oh my god, where did Will Hill come from?  He has the ball now?  Now Teryl Austin is screaming "I drink your milkshake!" at Urban!

It's time to roll out the welcome mat for UF's next super DB. The position was passed down from Lito Sheppard to Keiwan Ratliff to Reggie Nelson to Joe Haden, and much like the Channing Crowderbacker, has been a staple for virtually every year of the 2000s.

In an interview Monday, Hill explained that he had the tendency to take plays off last year. He claimed, and Teryl Austin agreed, that Hill had worked much harder through two weeks of Spring and his old bad habits haven't found their way back into his game.

This is good for two reasons. First, it means Hill is maturing into a leader, something the Gators currently don't have on defense. Second, it means that Hill, the guy who was so good last year that Charlie Strong had to change the base defense to a 3–3–5 so he could get the kid on the field, wasn't trying.

He was probably the fifth or sixth best player on the field, a nightmare for offensive coordinators, and the only DB besides Haden who didn't miss his open field tackles ever, and he wasn't even giving 100 percent!

The best thing is, I don't remember a single "Dammit, Will Hill!" moment last year. So he was taking plays off, but still being good enough to make the play anyway.

Going into Spring, the Gators needed a leader and a top playmaker. They may exit with both wrapped up neatly in a package labeled "Hill".