Hill Makes Move in Pendergast's Defense

The talk of California Golden Bears fall camp centered on the cornerbacks. One player not often mentioned in that group of potential starters at corner was sophomore Josh Hill. But the reason why Hill – who started five games in 2009 – was not part of that competition was not because of injury or regression. Hill was offered an opportunity to compete at free safety in Clancy Pendergast's defense…

"[The coaches] asked me if I would make that transition to free safety," said Josh Hill. "I wanted to help the defense out in any way, so I immediately said yes."

That decision soon got him reps with the first team, and more. At the end of fall camp, Hill's name was at the top of the depth chart at free safety, as he beat out All-Pac-10 safety Sean Cattouse for the starting spot. Granted, Cattouse did battle injury. But you still have to realize that Hill had played safety for barely over two weeks before being named a starter, which is a testament to his work.

"[Hill] does a good job," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "He has a great understanding of what we are doing and, as much as anything, of directing traffic back there. He understands what is going on, and to get other people in the right position. A lot of communication goes on back there, and he's been really solid."

Hill also brings a bit of diversity to the defense. Hill's experience as a corner last year has him in line to be the cover guy in nickel situations. His speed allows him to play an effective center field, vital for any defense. His physical nature can help stop the run.

In addition, Hill being on the field at safety means that the defense has three experienced cover corners – four if you include senior Chris Conte, who has made five career starts at cornerback. That potentially means more man-to-man coverages, which opens up a completely new array of potential blitz packages.

"We can mix it up," says Hill. "Coming from the cornerback, you have to play at least some man defense. They feel comfortable with me on the wideouts, so that is always a plus. It does give us a lot of options as to what we can do on the field."

Surely, Hill's experience as a cornerback had a major effect in having him at the top of the depth chart. But, for Hill, the difference is all mental.

"The only thing that is really different is that you have to know what everybody else is doing," says Hill. "From coverage to blitzes to pre-snap reads, it's all mental. But it allows me to be more vocal, and be more of a leader. To me, that's cool."

Of course, the opportunity to be a starter is never set in stone. For Hill, the opportunity to start does not shift his mindset: he wants to continue to get better, and help the defense.

"I was excited to see that I was the number one out of camp," said Hill. "But nothing is set in stone. That can change each week, and anything can happen whereas my role may be shifted a bit depending on circumstances. I just want to help the team, and just keep getting better."

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