Hill Peaking at Defensive Tackle

Switching to a 4 -3 alignment, should have spelled prosperity and a spike in the number of snaps for linebacker Jordan Hill. Ironically, those goals have been accomplished but not before a position change that introduced the sophomore to the defensive line. Hill talked to DevilsDigest about his new role, being the oldest player on the tem, and facing the team's toughest offensive challenge to date in the Iowa Hawkeyes.

The sophomore said that the talks, which lead to his position move, were a mixture of his own initiative and a proposal by Brent Guy, ASU's defensive coordinator. "I had a conversation with coach Guy," Jordan Hill recalled, "and I asked him where I stood right before spring ball. We talked about me wanting to play a lot more, and I asked if there's a position where I can help the team more. We talked about it, and it kinda of spun out from there." His weight is another thing that took a sharp turn, and thanks to "eating a lot of shakes" he gained nearly 30 pounds to come into the season at 275 pounds.

"We did talk about me playing the middle linebacker in the 4-3," Hill continued, "but before we went into spring coach Guy talked to me, and asked me how would I feel playing the ‘three technique'. I told him that I would play wherever he wanted me to."

Ever since spring practice, it was becoming evident that the position switch was going to be a success. Thus far in 2004, Hill leads all defensive linemen with ten tackles, which is fourth on the team. Against Northwestern, the sophomore recorded his first sack of the season, and his two tackles for loss in that game are just one shy of his 2003 season grand total of three.

While Hill is pleased with his development, the humble lineman knows that many share in his success. "It has been quite a change, but I had a lot of great teachers around me," he remarked. "The defensive linemen like Gabe (Reininger), Jimmy (Verdon), Ish (Thrower), all those guys there…coach Monachino…all of them supported me during the transition. They showed me the techniques and the things that I need to improve on."

Regardless of his achievements, Hill doesn't find himself spending time pondering what he misses from his linebacker days or even naming the aspects of his game that make him so successful at defensive tackle. "To be honest, I haven't really thought about the change," he said. "I'm just taking it in stride, and making the most of it. I'm trying to help the team as much as I can. I love getting playing time, making my presence known, and making things happen. It helps having playmakers out there like Dale Robinson and Justin Burks. The offense worries about those guys, and that gives me a chance to take the pressure off of them, and try to make a play."

Does he find himself being surprised over his success? "I'm just trying to do the things the coach tells me, and learn the position as best as I can," he replied. "I'm definitely making a lot of mistakes, and the best thing I can do is to learn as hard as I can. If I'm gonna make a mistake, then make it full speed."

When it comes to his team's locker room banter, it seems that Hill has been spared from being called a coach's pet, since he followed the same path as his head coach Dirk Koetter who was born in Pocatello, Idaho and was a graduate of that local high school. "I hope nobody's sees it that way (smile)" he said. "I'm out there working hard. We come from the same area, and a lot of the coaches coached at Boise State. It's kinda fun to sit around and talk about Idaho and some of those things. Getting away from home isn't that bad when you can sit around and talk about home and things you're used to."

Another unique attribute of Jordan Hill is that despite being a second year player in the maroon and gold, he stands as the elder statesman of the squad at 23 years old. "I don't think too many of them actually know how old I really am (smile)," he quipped. "They know I'm a little bit older, and understand the whole mission thing and being gone for two years. It's fun getting a little razzed about that, and being the oldest guy as a sophomore."

Speaking of his mission, the defensive tackle was fortunate enough to spend those two years in Australia. Then again, it does make it clear that "It was a mission, not a vacation (smile)." Furthermore, Hill was getting a steady does of trash talking from the locals concerning his sport of choice. "The biggest thing that I got from everyone," he recalled, "is when I told them that I play American football everybody had a criticism about it (smile). They said ‘that's not football. You wear those pads…' But it was lots of fun learning their sport of rugby, and I got to play it a little."

Hill is one of only a few players on the team who's married. He credits his wife Megan with his success on and off the field. "I got a great wife and she has supported me through everything," he remarked. "At nights I come home from practice and she's staying up helping me with my homework, so we can spend time together. Without her I wouldn't be able to do any of this."

Hill and his teammates on defense are quite aware that the Iowa game will easily pose the biggest test of this young season. The sophomore is very respectful of his opponent, and knows that only the best performance from him and his teammates season can help them prevail in this contest. "They got some big boys upfront," said Hill. "We just have to keep our pad level down and try to out effort them. Iowa has been known to have great offenses and great offensive lines, and this year it's the same way. We just have to look at it as a challenge, and play the best we can."

Some of his comrades are calling Saturday's match up a statement game. Does Hill agree with that portrayal? "Absolutely," he exclaimed. "Last week it was a good challenge for us to see where we're at. Going against Northwestern, another Big Ten team, which is big and physical. This week the challenge will step up even more, and this is a statement time for us and to see where we're at. This game will get us ready for Pac-10 play and kind of set the tempo for how we want to play in the conference."

Jordan Hill is one who credits his accomplishments to those who surround him on and off the field. On that note, he realizes that a strong showing in the stands by the maroon and gold faithful can go a long way in aiding the team to what could be their biggest victory in recent memory. "Every guy that was at Iowa last year remembers the feeling of having the fans right there," he said. "We talked about how much that crowd erupted. As soon as they scored their first touchdown, the 65,000 fans…every one of them was on his feet. I'm hoping we get the same kind of support here this week." And when it comes to Jordan Hill, there has indeed been much to cheer about as of late…

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