Amongst the stable of ball carriers and one of the newest Volunteers is Alden Hill, who only recently moved away from Alliance, Ohio, to make Knoxville his home. Taking that plunge as a 17-year-old isn't for everyone but this recruit is attacking college life with his his hands covering the points and carrying himself into the future high and tight.
"It was real hard," Hill told InsideTennesse in his final interview before starting classes. "That's where I'm from, that's all I know, and that's all my friends right there in that area. It's not that hard to keep in contact only eight hours away. I understand that, and they understand that. That's part of the transition. It's hard, but that's part of the process."
Hill doesn't transition to life on The Hill void of friendships, thanks to the recruiting process. He has already started to bond with fellow running backs and rising sophomores Tom Smith and Devrin Young, along with some of the defensive linemen and of course his roommate, fellow freshman Cody Blanc.
Hill, Smith and Young combine with Marlin Lane and Jaron Toney to form the crew attempting to reconstruct Tennessee's running game. Competition and opportunity should drive these backs to improve throughout the spring.
|Tennessee running backs coach Jay Graham is ready to see freshman Alden Hill perform live with the pads on.|
"I'm going to approach it like, 'This is what I've worked for,'" he said. "I'm just trying to better myself, trying to get into position to help the team. I'm going to work and sell out for it."
For now the import from the north is working out with Tennessee strength and conditioning coach Ron McKeefery and his staff, testing, taking part in meetings and adjusting.
Having been there and done that, new Vol running backs coach Jay Graham should be able to sympathize with his young pupils and provide a map to being a productive back in the Southeastern Conference. "I think he's real cool. I've talked to him. I feel like I can really trust him," Hill said of Graham.
"He's someone who's been a part of the program and been an impact to it. That's real important. I'm looking forward to going down there and seeing us run the ball. A lot of people have dismissed me already. I just have to fend for myself and keep working hard.They struggled a bit last year. I hope to bring (an improved running game) to the team."
At a recent press conference, Graham had a chance to voice his opinion of Tennessee's shiny new ball-toting toy. "He has a lot of speed," said Graham, who is ranked seventh all-time on UT's career rushing list. "I didn't know how big he would be until I met him. When I saw him…I mean he's big. Just to have that type of speed and he can change direction. He has good hips and explosion. We'll see once we put him in pads."
During his prep career, Hill accumulated school records for career yards (4,912) and touchdowns (72), while averaging almost 8 yards per carry.
That was then. This is now. The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder is no longer the big fish in the little pond. InsideTennessee subscribers will get updates as spring practices get underway before fans flock to Neyland Stadium in April to see No. 30 pounding the rock.
Hill, who turned 18 two days ago, is taking 13 hours this semester. While he said he is undecided on a major, Graphic Design presents a possibility.
Hill was gracious enough to open his mind and life up to InsideTennessee subscribers during his final season at Marlington (Ohio) High School with a double-digit number of diaries. Before bidding farewell to going on the record with media outlets for several months, he had one last message for Big Orange Country:
"I'm 218 (pounds) and I've got speed and I'm going to run the ball. I'm not trying to be a fullback at all. I'm here to run the ball. They want a big back with speed and that's what I'm going to do and deliver that."