K.J. Hill was supposed to play for Ohio State last season.
While head coach Urban Meyer calls for all of his true freshman to play, he went so far as to refer to Hill by name during the middle of last season.
"There's a chance K.J. Hill will play," Meyer said Oct. 14 before the Buckeyes hosted Penn State.
Hill didn't and ended up redshirting, returning for 2016 with freshman eligibility. The former four-star recruit from Arkansas continued to receive praise from the coaching staff throughout spring ball despite having a cast on his left hand after a wrist injury. Even with the club on that hand Hill made a one-handed catch in Ohio State's spring game and many more in practice.
The injury is fully healed now, Hill said, and he has been able to regain strength in his left hand and wrist with a dedicated summer weights program. It would seem that if a one-handed Hill drew praise throughout spring practice -- both from the coaching staff and from quarterback J.T. Barrett for his route running -- a two-handed version would be even more desirable.
As the season nears, however, the talk of Hill has dissipated. True freshman Austin Mack and converted quarterback Torrance Gibson have dominated the conversation of young Ohio State wideouts. Still, Hill is confident he can make an impact for the Buckeyes this season.
“My role right now is I’m just staying humble, going hard every day in practice, trying to make plays and show them that I can make those plays," Hill said Sunday. "I feel like I can come in, in the season and make those same plays and rotate with those receivers, make plays in a game-time situation.”
Part of the challenge for Hill is the fact that the receivers he hopes to rotate with are all extremely talented, if unproven. Noah Brown expects to be the Buckeyes No. 1 target, while Mack, Gibson, Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin are all competing for reps.
It will take a lot for the 6-0, 200-pound wideout to make a name for himself in such a crowded position room and Hill knows it.
“It’s ridiculous in there," Hill said. "We all compete every day and we all push each other because it’s nothing but talent in there. It helps us a lot.”
With so much talent it would be easy to become the forgotten player in the room. But Hill is working to prove he was worthy of all the talk last season and throughout spring, even if the chatter has died down a bit through fall camp.