Arizona Wildcats receiver Austin Hill doesn’t remember much from last year’s game against Oregon, which tends to happen after being knocked out.
But he’s seen the game tape.
The moment in question came early in third quarter. Hill went up for a pass and as he was falling down, Ducks safety John Boyett came crashing in with a shoulder-to-helmet hit. Hill’s head slammed into the Arizona Stadium turf.
Hill was motionless on the field for about 30 seconds having suffered a concussion. He was able to walk off the field with assistance.
There was no penalty on the play — that didn’t sit well with coach Mike Stoops, remember? — but Hill said this week that the hit was “clean.”
“My head hit the ground pretty hard,” he said. “I think it was the ground that caused more of the damage anyway. I had a lot of whiplash.”
One regret: Boyett, known as one of the hardest hitters in the Pac-12, is out for the season after undergoing surgery earlier this month on both knees.
“I’m disappointed,” Hill said of not getting a rematch with Boyett on Saturday when the 22nd-ranked Wildcats play at No. 3 Oregon (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
“Especially since I’m an inside receiver, I get to play against the safeties a lot more. I wish I would have played a little bit against him.”
Hill, a sophomore, has emerged as a big-play threat, catching 17 passes for 319 yards through three games. He was added this week to the watch list for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver.
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One of the most valuable parts of last week’s rout of South Carolina State was that backup quarterback B.J. Denker, a junior college transfer, was able to make his Arizona debut.
“We’ve been very pleased with B.J. in practices and seeing him execute and run the offense,” said co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee.
“We kind of anticipated him doing OK when he got in. He’s not a freshman. He’s been through games before. … He did very well. He ran the offense. He saw things. It’s just comfortable knowing that he’s been in a game and understands it.”
Denker played the fourth quarter with the second-string offense, completing 6 of 10 passes for 78 yards with one touchdown. He also ran once for 7 yards, leading the team to two touchdowns in a 56-0 win.
“It was definitely exciting,” he said.
“It was a good first Division I experience. … It definitely helps. Any live reps can help.”
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Safety Adam Hall hasn’t been at practice in the past couple of weeks and is presumably continuing his rehab from a torn ACL suffered in the spring game.
Hall wasn’t with the team in fall camp but was at a couple of practices in late August, when coach Rich Rodriguez said, “You’re either with the program or you’re not, and he’s with the program right now.”
On Tuesday, Rodriguez told TucsonCitizen.com that, “I haven’t seen him. He’s supposed to be doing treatment and going to school. Beyond that, I haven’t seen what he’s doing.”
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Arizona picked up some depth on defense with the return last week of defensive lineman Dan Pettinato and outside linebacker Hank Hobson. They each missed the first two games because of injuries.
“They are healthier and there shouldn’t be any restrictions,” Rodriguez said.
“We didn’t want to play them a lot against South Carolina State because they haven’t played a lot. We wanted to make sure they were 100 percent. Looks like both of those guys are 100 percent going forward.”
Each are listed as second-stringers this week.
Arizona is still short of having the 22 or so players that Rodriguez would like to trust on defense. Asked about any other defenders who helped themselves last week to perhaps get into the rotation, Rodriguez paused while thinking.
“We’re still searching,” he said.
Perhaps true freshman linebacker Dakota Conwell?
Conwell made his Arizona debut last week after missing two games because of a foot injury. He has Arizona’s only sack vs. South Carolina State.
“He would have been in the mix sooner but he had a sore foot,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a guy we’re hoping gets more reps.”