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Neck injury frustrates Arizona Wildcats receiver Austin Hill

Austin Hill

Austin Hill after being hit by Oregon's John Boyette last season. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Every scrimmage he misses, every contact drill he can only watch from the sideline, are opportunities slipping through the hands of Arizona Wildcats receiver Austin Hill.

The redshirt sophomore hasn’t been able to do much in the first spring under head coach Rich Rodriguez while most of the rest of the teammates are trying to gulp down new schemes and impress the new staff.

“The timing,” Hill said, “is not good.”

Hill, trying to build off a promising 2011 season, said he is having trouble moving his left arm, which is related to neck problems that popped up in the offseason, an issue that might be related to the huge hit he took last year against Oregon on Sept. 24.

Ducks safety John Boyett lowered his shoulder into Hill’s helmet as the receiver went up to catch a pass. Hill was knocked out, motionless on the field for about 30 seconds. Hill suffered a concussion but was able to play the next week.

“I don’t know if it’s connected to the hit I took last year in the Oregon game, but it’s pretty messed up,” Hill said of his neck. “I can’t really move my left arm around too much.”

Hill (6-3, 211 pounds) said he can participate in some drills, but no contact. Arizona is entering its final week of spring practice and will hold a scrimmage at Kino Stadium on Saturday starting at 1 p.m.

If Hill can get his neck problems resolved, he figures to be a key player in a receiving corps that loses Juron Criner, David Douglas, Gino Crump and David Roberts — that’s 244 receptions right there. Richard Morrison, who made 22 catches last season, has spent much of his time this spring at quarterback.

Senior Dan Buckner is the team’s top returning receiver with 42 catches for 606 yards. Hill had 21 receptions for 311 yards and two scores last season.

Playing time behind Criner wasn’t always ample, but Hill did flash potential when he caught eight passes for 128 yards when Criner was out against Oklahoma State.

“This is very frustrating,” Hill said of his spring.

“It makes me want to practice more. I’m hungry. I want to play even more right now, but it’s just difficult. It’s hard to watch because I’ve been working so hard and then something like this holds me out. It kind of makes me mad.”

Meanwhile, Hill is trying to keep up with the conditioning required in Rodriguez’s fast-paced, no-huddle offense. He said he is working on his “core muscles” even if he can’t do much upper-body strength training.

Hard to say right now, but he sounded confident that the injury would not linger into the summer.

“I’m pretty sure, with everything the trainers are doing, we’re going to get it taken care of,” he said.

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