Will Hill is Refocused in 2010

Will Hill isn't proud of what happened last season. There were times, even on the football field, when his mind was elsewhere. Part of it came from hearing outside sources talk about how good the Gators were. There was also an experience off the field that changed his life. With his focus sometimes off football, Hill understands why he produced a mediocre season.

"I wasn't all the way into it last year," Will Hill said. "I had a lot of things going on, like becoming a dad. Now I've got my head on straight and I'm ready to go."

He became a father late in September, only a few games into the season. Hill's son is now in Jacksonville. His mind was constantly on his child.

It's hard to blame him for that.

Whether it was sharing two safety spots with two other players or listening to the media talk about how good the Florida defense was, Hill isn't exactly sure. But he does know that he slacked off.

The offseason was a time for refocusing. Hill's impact at free safety is now expected to give the Gators a boost this season.

"Night and day," Florida head coach Urban Meyer said of Hill now compared to last season. "There were a lot of issues. He was a guy that drank the poison, or whatever you want to call it. He's going as hard as we've ever had a safety go around here. He and (Chuck) Heater have a really good deal going on back there."

Hill now finds himself as a playmaker in the most veteran group of the defense. The secondary is packed with three-year starters in safety Ahmad Black and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. For a defensive line without proven players to provide a pass rush, the experience in the secondary is imperative to the defense.

The chemistry between Black and Hill at the safety position improved over the offseason to where they now could produce on the field without even talking. Both players know where the other one is going to be on each snap.

That relationship on the field wouldn't be possible without the one they built off it.

"We are real good on and off the field, just from working together for the last few years," Hill said. "I can look at him and just know what he's going to do."

Hill is the safety dripping with NFL potential because of his measurables and speed. It hasn't translated completely to the field yet, as he has only recorded two interceptions in college, both coming during his freshman year.

Watching Black on the field is part of the reason Hill thinks this is his breakout season.

"He's like a cat," Hill said. "A cat always lands on his feet, and he always lands in football position."

The hope is that Hill becomes effective enough on defense to allow the Gators to play him as the one high safety, similar to how they used Reggie Nelson. Hill has shown flashes of being a player capable of covering the back third of the defense from sideline-to-sideline.

"We'll play a lot of one-high and two-high," Hill said. "I can be that guy. (Coach Meyer) wants me to be that guy."

It's easy to practice being a safety that disturbs the passing game when you constantly work on it. Hill has gone up against John Brantley throughout fall camp, and he is sold on the Florida quarterback being able to distribute the ball this season. Going up against him daily has already made Hill better.

"He's slinging the ball," Hill said. "He's getting more comfortable with his receivers and he knows when they're breaking or how they're going to be within their routes. He's releasing the ball before they even make their breaks."
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