Best in the Nation?

When it comes to the Clemson secondary in 2004, expectations are high. The Tigers will return starters at all four positions, highlighted by the play of two of the top cornerbacks in the league in Justin Miller and Tye Hill.

It was just one year ago that the Clemson coaching staff took a chance on Tye Hill.

Stuck somewhere on depth chart at running back behind Chad Jasmin, Yusef Kelly, and Duane Coleman, the decision was made to move him over to the secondary before the start of spring practice.

Not knowing if the transition would work, the move certainly had its share of risks.

After all, Hill is one of the fastest players in the country and scored the longest rushing touchdown of the year during the previous season against Virginia.

And as a cornerback, the outcome of a game often times rest solely in your hands as the difference between a touchdown and an incompletion can rest squarely in the the turn of your hips.

At best, corners often describe themselves "on an island." It's him versus the receiver, may the best man win.

For Hill, the best man has turned out to be him as the move has been nothing short of a huge success. Last season, he took over the starting spot from senior Toure Francis, and never looked back.

Tye Hill has proven to be one an excellent cover corner since his transition from running back.
"I have no regrets at all about making the move," said Hill. "It put me on the field and in a position to help the team. I like having the ball in my hands of course, but it was a good move for me."

This spring, the converted running back is working on several aspects of his game, but mostly it's about just becoming more comfortable and more aggressive and he settles into his new role.

"Practice is going all along well for me right now," said Hill. "This time of year its all about working on your weaknesses. For me, it's stance and start, finishing plays, learning how to make more plays."

The Clemson secondary, which was ranked second in the league in passing defense a year ago, made it's share of big plays last season with Hill roaming the defensive backfield. Overall, he finished with 37 total tackles to go along with 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and 7 passes broken up.

This year, with all four starters returning with an ample amount of experience and success under their belt, Hill says that you can't just call this unit one of the best in league.

"We are one of the best in the nation right now," said Hill.

"We proved in the second half of the season last year that we can stop the pass or the run. Travis Pugh- he's been playing since his freshman year. He knows the system. Justin- everybody knows what he's capable of on the field. With me- I'm finally coming along getting the grasp of things and trying to make plays. Fudge- he's an excellent cover guy and makes a lot of plays for us."

Certainly, the former running back isn't lacking confidence headed into his second week of spring practice. But behind all that talent and experience lies another very important trait carried by winning programs- chemistry.

"We've got it," said Hill. "We all know what's going on back there and I think that gives us great chemistry on the field, and that's big. That helps us out a lot."

This week, Hill will leave the worrying about form tackling and turning his hips the right way behind, as the Tigers take the week off for spring break.

"I haven't been home since Christmas," said Hill. "I'm just looking forward to going back there and doing nothing."

Starting next Monday however, it's back to work, and back to trying to become one of the best defensive backfields in the league.

Sorry, I mean the nation.

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