Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Austin Hill, coming off a brilliant sophomore season, suffered a torn ACL in practice Wednesday, endangering his 2013 season.
Coach Rich Rodriguez confirmed the news after Saturday’s spring game.
Hill (6-3, 210) caught 81 passes for 1,364 yards last season, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors and tying the school record with 11 receiving touchdowns. Hill, known for his hands and acrobatic catches, seemingly was in line to make a run at some kind of All-America honors.
“It just makes me sick, because he was such a great player. But he still will be,” Rodriguez said.
“I don’t know when his time frame is to return, but he’ll be back bigger and stronger with the way technology is today and all that. I really felt bad for him. I know Austin is a tough, strong guy, and he’ll bounce back.”
Rodriguez said Hill will undergo surgery as soon as possible, and there is no further damage to the knee beyond the ACL.
Hill redshirted as a freshman in 2010, so he would lose this year of eligibility and be a senior in 2014. Hill, the son of former NFL tight end David Hill, attended the spring game, wearing his jersey and sweats.
Rodriguez has said several times this spring that receiver is the team’s deepest position, but this is still a significant blow to the offense, which also lost wideout Dan Buckner to graduation.
Without those two, Arizona’s leading receiver for a new starting quarterback (to be determined) is 6-4 sophomore David Richards, who caught 29 passes for 298 yards. Another 6-4 receiver, senior Terrence Miller, officially received his medical redshirt year after playing in only four games last season due to injury.
Miller played in the spring game as a big slot receiver, but can also play outside.
“Terrence is such a smart guy,” Rodriguez said.
“He’ll play outside, he’ll play inside, he’ll play tight end. I think he’s excited about it because it puts him in different positions on the field.”
More will be expected from junior Tyler Slavin, Hill’s high school teammate at Roosevelt High in Corona, Calif. Slavin caught 22 passes last season, including the game-winner from Matt Scott with 19 seconds left in the New Mexico Bowl.
“Man, it’s devastating, that’s for sure,” Slavin said of Hill’s injury.
“He had a lot going for him, and I know he had big plans of going to the NFL after this year. He had big things to do. Man, it just hurts.”
Arizona’s receivers usually learn both the inside and outside positions, so Rodriguez and his staff will be mixing and matching in fall camp.
Walk-on sophomore Johnny Jackson (25 catches, 187 yards) and speedy junior Garic Wharton (19, 264) return in the slot. Arizona is hoping that Notre Dame sophomore transfer Davonte’ Neal wins his appeal to the NCAA and doesn’t have to sit out this season, as is usual with a transfer. He could be dynamic in the slot.
A trio of redshirt freshmen will be available, too. There have been good reports about 6-3 Trey Griffey, the son of Ken Griffey Jr., regarding his coach-ability, athleticism and toughness. Clive Georges (6-1, 168) is skinny but has lots of speed, which could help Arizona stretch the field from an outside receiver position.
Jarrell Bennett (5-10, 158) is set to compete in the slot, bringing speed and open-field skills.
Arizona signed six players in February who could compete for playing time at receiver.
Slot receiver T.J. Johnson might be the fastest player in the class. Others are Paul Elvira, Samajie Grant, Mauriece Lee, Nate Phillips and Lee Walker.
“Our thing is we want to get eight to nine guys ready at the position,” Rodriguez said of the receiver spots. “We didn’t have that many last year. Our hope was this year.”
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Remember this stiff-arm from Hill against Washington last season?