Clemson, Georgia Tech, Alabama. Georgia Southern?
Where do the Eagles fit into that foursome of schools? They’re the school that landed Carson Hill.
Admittedly there was some luck involved, but Hill, the Eagles’ freshman cornerback, was recruited hard by the three Division I-A programs coming out of Baldwin County High School.
Clemson offered and was rejected. While Hill pondered, Tech called and said it had received a commitment from another cornerback. That was ok, though, because the Crimson Tide wanted him so Hill committed to Alabama.
That was before the NCAA came in and stripped the Tide of five scholarships. One of those was intended for Hill. Now, he was hanging out to dry.
And, that’s where the Eagles swooped in and scooped him up. Hill has the tools, coach Brian VanGorder believes, to be an outstanding player for Georgia Southern.
When VanGorder held a press conference to announce his first class of signees he expressed his pleasure at the number of good players available despite his staff’s late start in recruiting. It only reaffirmed in his mind one of the positives about the Southern job: the abundance of quality talent available in Georgia and Florida less than a day’s drive from the campus.
He also said that unlike the past when almost without exception entire recruit classes were redshirted, anyone good enough to play would get the opportunity. He cited several players who he believed could come in and contribute fairly quickly. One of those was Hill.
Hill (5-10, 165 pounds) has started three games this season, and will be available for action Saturday against Appalachian State after missing last week’s game with Elon due to an ankle injury.
“He’s going to be an outstanding player,” said VanGorder. “Right now he’s small and he needs to gain power and strength in the weight room.
“He’s an outstanding competitor, a young man with a lot of skill,” said VanGorder. “He’s got a lot of outstanding skill. …It’s going to be fun to see him develop.”
Hill’s signing with Georgia Southern was a surprise to many who figured he would go “higher.”
“Clemson offered me,” said Hill, “but I didn’t want to go there and be Leroy Hill’s little brother. I wanted to go somewhere where I could make my own name.”
Hill’s older brother, Leroy, was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year two years ago as a linebacker with the Tigers while earning All-America honors. He is now in his second year with the Seattle Seahawks and played in last year’s Super Bowl as a rookie.
“I really thought I was going to Georgia Tech, but they got a commitment from another cornerback,” Hill said, “and then I decided to go Alabama and the NCAA came in and cut scholarships. I was one of those guys whose scholarship was cut.
“When Georgia Southern coaches called I didn’t hesitate to listen to them,” said Hill. “I had followed coach VanGorder when he was at Georgia, and I knew he wanted good defensive players. They told me they needed me to play as a true freshman. They wouldn’t guarantee I would play, but that they needed me to play — I would have the opportunity. That’s all I needed to hear.”
Hill, like several other young Eagle players, is a work in progress. Unfortunately, for him as a cornerback, when he errors, it usually occurs in the open field and results in either a long gain or a touchdown.
Hill has 11 tackles this season, but it’s the one he didn’t make that sticks out in VanGorder’s mind — and Hill’s too.
Tied at 14-14 with North Dakota State in the third quarter a Bison receiver caught a short pass, broke out of Hill’s grasp and sped 38 yards for a touchdown.
“When you play corner you’re on an island out there by yourself,” said Hill. “They ran a two-yard hitch and I played it perfectly. I had him covered, and I got my hand on the ball, but instead of securing the tackle I tried to strip the ball and that’s when he broke loose. I should have made the tackle first.
“You’ve got to live through those things when you’re playing a true freshman,” said VanGorder. “It’s really tough in that position... You make that kind of mistake (a missed tackle) and it winds up being a touchdown in a critical area of the game.
“He just needs to get better and better and he’ll be a fine corner in this conference,” said VanGorder. “He’ll work hard because he’s a guy that wants to be good.”