Second chances are hard to come by, and Georgia Southern cornerback Carson Hill is on his way to getting one.
Hill entered the 2009 season at the top of the defensive depth chart, but came in academically ineligible for what would have been his senior season.
Fortunately, he hadn't used up his red-shirt, so he spent 2009 in the classroom and on the scout team, working hard to redeem himself and get back on the field for his final year. The thought of once again taking the field for the Eagles has kept him going through it all.
"Ever since I found out I couldn't play," said Hill, "that's all I've been thinking about - next season, next season, next season - that's been my motivation."
Unable to take out his aggression on Saturdays in 2009, Hill directed it all on the offense when it practiced against the scout team during the week.
"I worked hard on the scout team. I was giving the offense a good look every time," he said. "I really tried to wreak havoc over there on the scout team because I was kind of mad. I was like, ‘Okay, I'm on the scout team, so I'm going to make you pay the price.'
"I had to pay the price for my failure, but I'm back on track and I'm proud about that."
Hill worked with the scouts on the field and in the weight room, and the first-year coaching staff has been impressed with his work ethic, as well as what they've seen on tape from previous years - including the interception he ran back for a touchdown against Appalachian State in GSU's 38-35 win on October 20, 2007 in Boone, N.C.
"My thing was to try to get some of that rust off of him and get him back on the field," said GSU cornerbacks coach Orlando Mitjans. "He has a great attitude and he's worked hard - I can see why he played two years ago. He has a lot of talent. My job this spring is to get him back in shape and get him back thinking positive, that he's loved here and he's needed here.
"I think he feels like he's part of the team again, and he's worked hard. He really has, on the field and in the classroom."
With all the changes happening on both sides of the ball for the Eagles, Hill is also glad he's playing a position that hasn't required too many changes in philosophy. He's not sure where else he could play.
"I've been playing cornerback ever since I've been playing football," Hill said. "It would kind of hurt me to get moved to another position because it's all I know. I'm blessed to be playing the same position throughout my career."
That doesn't change the looks he's seeing on the other side of the ball. From a defensive perspective, Hill isn't too thrilled about having to fight off cut blocks every day in the new option offense.
"I'm gonna be honest - I hate it," he laughed. "You've got to watch receivers, you've got to keep people off your knees and cutting and everything. I hate it, but as long as it puts points on the board, I can't argue with it. You've got to watch for the cutting on every play, so a receiver, anybody will drop on you and the next thing you know you're tumbling on the ground. But as long as they produce and put points on the board, we're going to stop people from scoring. That's how you win."
Hill joins Laron Scott as another favorite to start at the position, as well as Hudson Presume, who spent time at several defensive-back positions in 2009.
"It's a neck-and-neck battle between those three guys," said Mitjans. "I feel good about going into the season. If I had to go with those three guys, I feel good about it."
Hill isn't in the clear yet. He's close, but he needs to finish with high marks this semester to make sure he will be on the field for the second chance at his senior year.
Two more off the team
Two more players - defensive lineman Eric Grube and offensive lineman Spencer Kelly - have been removed from the roster for undisclosed reasons.
They join quarterbacks Lee Chapple, Kyle Collins, Leander Barney and running back Adam Urbano, the team's leading rusher in 2009, as players no longer on the roster.
Back to Paulson
The Eagles will return to Paulson Stadium Saturday at 9 a.m. for the second scrimmage of the spring.
First-year head coach Jeff Monken hopes it looks better than Thursday's practice session, where the offense focused mostly on the inside veer - the bread-and-butter triple option play of the system.
"We're still missing assignments, missing blocks, the quarterback's not checking us in the direction we want to go when we're in a situation where we've got them out numbered, and it's disappointing," Monken said. "That's our play. We just made a decision as a staff offensively that we just needed to hold off on installing anything else. Our guys weren't getting it. They didn't have the base play down, and we need to have that one down."
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.