Hill Welcomes Starter Position

The circumstances may be different, but the role is a familiar one. The junior, who started four games in 2003, has been elevated overnight from third stringer to the team's featured running back. Hill told DevilsDigest that despite his broken arm he feels ready to lead the maroon and gold rushing attack at Oregon this week.

Hakim Hill always took with a grain of salt his position on the depth chart. "When we had a three-back rotation," he said, "we always had the mindset that whoever is in there was the first string running back. I don't have my two compadres, but that's fine – the offensive line will take care of me. Now it's my job, it's on my shoulders, and I'm ready for it. I'm gonna get with Preston Jones and Rudy Burgess and coach them up as well as I can."

Ever since he set foot in Tempe, the junior has been touted by many to be the best ball carrier on the team. Nevertheless, Inconsistency and off the field issues, have prevented him from being a bona fide star. In 2002 he scored nine touchdowns (three of them receiving), despite not starting even once all season. While he may be eager to finally showcase his talents as a long-term starter, he doesn't necessarily view his opportunity as sweet redemption. "I don't know if it's satisfying, but the coaches have prepared me for this situation," Hill stated. "The good thing having three running backs is that we all started a game at one point or another. It just happened to turn out this way, and I'm ready for it."

Two dramatic events have vaulted the junior into a starting role. The season-ending injury to Randy Hill this past Saturday, and the recent indefinite suspension of Loren Wade, which has prompted an NCAA investigation. Hill said that he and the team aren't allowing those happenings to serve as a distraction. "We're just going on with business right now," he claimed. "We have to practice, we have a game to play on Saturday. We have a great game plan for Oregon. Before and after practice we can talk about whatever, but it comes to practice and the game it's business as usual."

Hill is also unfazed by the cast on his broken arm. In the team's last game against Oregon State, the junior led his squad with 50 yards on 17 carries, and scored ASU's first rushing touchdown of 2004. "I'm feeling good," he commented. "The coaches have set me up so I can play as well as I possibly can in this cast. Once I broke the arm, we X-rayed it to see how bad of a break it was. It definitely wasn't normal playing with a cast. But I'm getting through it, and the coaches help get my mind off of it every day."

Playing with a cast has naturally affected the manner in which Hill plays these days. "When I carry the ball I don't think about it at all," he claimed. "I just have to carry it in my left hand and do the best I can. I can't stiff-arm anybody. Defenders take a shot at it – absolutely. If I were a defender I wouldn't take a shot at it because I know how it feels (smile). Coaches prepare me for that; scouts (scout players) try to strip the ball. I just get my mind right and go out and play."

"During the game my arm is good – adrenalin will do that for you (smile)," continued Hill. "But at 3 o'clock in the morning it's a little sore. " The junior added that the cast will stay at the same size (roughly at arm's length), and he's hopeful to have it off for the USC game on October 16th.

Just like their archrival, Oregon has been providing some bulletin board material for the maroon and gold with through some bold statements in the media. Hill and his teammates don't mind the role reversal from being one who exercises revenge, to one who is the target of such vengeance. "It's good to be the hunted (smile) – it means you're playing well," he exclaimed. "We're 4-0 and everybody is talking about it being the first time it happened since 1996. We have to get ready for Oregon and take it one game at a time. We're excited to play them and we have a shot to put some points on the board."

When Hill was asked what aspects of his game he was looking to improve coming into the season, he replied: "Hitting the hole hard, trusting my linemen, and have blind faith on some plays." This week, and perhaps for the rest of the season, the Sun Devils will in turn rely on the junior to be their bright star, in what appears to be a gloom and doom situation at running back.

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