Believe It: Hill Even Better This Year

Sometimes, even LeRoy Hill is amazed by everything that transpired last year. <BR><BR> The Clemson senior put up such ridiculous statistics last season at middle linebacker that Hill sometimes has a hard time comprehending it himself.

Consider that after never having started a game in his previous two seasons, all Hill did was lead the team with 145 tackles, with 27 of them coming behind the line of scrimmage, which tied the second-best single-season mark in school history. He ranked second in the nation in tackles for loss per game and fifth in solo tackles per game and ranked 22nd in the nation and fourth in the ACC in total tackles per game, while also leading the ACC in tackles for loss per game.

He also led the team in tackles in seven of the 13 games and had 10 double-figure tackle games.

"To think I was a nobody and came from nowhere, and to have the type of year I had, yeah, sometimes I can't believe it," said Hill, who played at Baldwin High in Haddock, Ga., which has less than 2,000 residents. "I still think about it sometimes. But you've got to keep going forward. Last year was last year. Now, there's this year."

Maybe so, but it will be a long time before folks forget what he did last season. After all, it's the performances he gave last year that have made him an All-American, Lombardi Award, Nagurski Award and Butkus Award candidate for this season.

All this is a long way from the wide-eyed freshman that first stepped foot onto the Clemson campus three years ago.

"I was lost and I didn't know where I was or where I was going – and I don't mean just on campus, either," Hill said. "I didn't know what was going on in practice. I was lost and missed reads and assignments all the time. It was a big mess."

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden remembers Hill's early days on campus. But even then, he knew there was potential for something special. However, Bowden tampered with Hill's early success at linebacker, which caused him to digress.

"I think the biggest thing he does now is his reads are really, really quick," Bowden said.
"When he led the team in tackles against Duke as a true freshman at inside linebacker, there was obviously some indication (he was good)," Bowden said. "But then we moved him to rover and whip and he wasn't very productive."

With Bowden seeing what had happened to his once prized freshman, Hill was switched back to linebacker and the rest, as they say, is history.

"Last year, I just felt like everything came together," Hill said. "I can't really explain it. It was just one of those things where as the season went on, I knew what I was supposed to do."

The scary part of all this is that Hill, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 225 pounds, says he's even better this year.

His coaches can see it, too.

"LeRoy is bigger and stronger and he's got a year under his belt playing in this system and playing that position," said defensive coordinator John Lovett. "He should just step right up and go. …

"He can get off blocks easier and so, obviously, that makes him a lot tougher to block. He's still got his speed and quickness and those instincts he has, but when somebody gets to him he can get off the block, which last year, because he was undersized, when somebody got on him he had a little bit of a problem."

Bowden, who is generally regarded as an offensive-type of coach, has taken notice as well.

"I think the biggest thing he does now is his reads are really, really quick," Bowden said. "He doesn't waste any movement. He does a real good job of reading blocking schemes and protections. He does it quicker than what he did, and he did it pretty good last year."

The funny thing in all this is the reason Hill's better and further along than he was all of last season. It's not often someone says they've improved their performance because they use their brain less.

"I don't think as much," he said. "I already know where to go and what to do and so I don't have to think about it. I tell everybody else where to be and where to go. I don't have to worry about myself. I can just play my game and not have to think so much." Top Stories