The freshman is resting at his Conway home after fracturing three transverse processes, which are small bones attached to the vertebrae, during Arkansas' 45-30 loss at Florida last Saturday. Arkansas trainer Dean Weber said Sunday the average timetable for recovery is 6 to 8 weeks, which likely would've kept Hillis sidelined the rest of the season.
But Hillis has been told an earlier return is possible.
"The doctors told me I'd be back in four weeks," Hillis said. "I'm hoping to be back in time for the South Carolina game (Nov. 6).
"I just can't wait to get back out there and play."
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder could be back sooner than expected, but the Hogs are being cautious about Hillis' rehabilitation. Nutt said Arkansas won't add pressure to the recovery process by targeting a specific date for Hillis' return.
The American Journal of Sports Medicine published a study in 1995 on professional football players with the same injury. It placed recovery time at an average of 3 1/2 weeks and concluded that athletes heal more rapidly because their muscle mass is greater than the average person.
Hillis, who said the bruise on his lower back is about the size of "a slice of pizza," has been sleeping a lot since the injury. He also spent more than two hours soaking in a tub Wednesday night.
"I'm still in a lot of pain," Hillis said. "I'm doing a whole lot better though. I wouldn't have stayed in (the tub) that long, but I couldn't get out on my own.
"I had to get out when the water got cold, though."
Hillis is tied for the Southeastern Conference lead with 6 touchdowns (5 rushing, 1 receiving). He has 28 carries for 91 yards and nine receptions for 74 yards.
Hillis plans to return to Fayetteville on Sunday and hopes to start rehabbing as soon as possible. He said he'll be "pretty down" when he watches the Hogs play their first game without him at Auburn on Oct. 16.
But Hillis said his goal is to be back on the field against South Carolina.
"The coaches have been calling me regularly every day," Hillis said. "They tell me to hang in there and they're just making sure I'm lying down.
"That's all I can do."
Hillis Eyes Quick Recovery
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