Rich Rodriguez already faced some tough challenges heading into year two with the Arizona Wildcats including replacing quarterback Matt Scott and continuing to build a defense that might actually stop somebody. His list of difficulties just got longer following news that wide receiver Austin Hill tore his ACL during a spring practice session. The loss of Hill in the passing game could be a hurdle that the Wildcats just can’t overcome.
Hill emerged as one of the key cogs in an Arizona offense that took the Pac 12 by storm in 2012. In his sophomore season, Hill finished with 81 catches for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns as he was named a Biletnikoff Award finalist. He figured to be one of the offensive leaders this season as a junior along with Ka’Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing a year ago.
Now, Rodriguez will have to look for a new playmaker in the receiving game, though it will be difficult to replace Hill, who was dynamic enough to play every receiver position. He will likely lean on a combination of young receivers who got valuable experience in 2012, including David Richards, Garic Wharton, Tyler Slavin, Johnny Jackson and Richard Morrison. There is some nice depth at the position, though none of them caught more than 30 passes or 300 yards.
There’s no questioning how important Hill was to the receiving corps for 2013. He was the headliner and was poised to step out as one of college football’s very best pass catchers. He will have to hold off on that coming out party, however, for a while now as he rehabilitates his knee. A cruel injury at an inopportune time, but one that could turn into an opportunity for Hill to come back even better and stronger in 2014 and beyond.