Hilinski focusing on feet, hips after WSU trip

COUGAR QUARTERBACK verbal commit Tyler Hilinski out of Upland, Calif., back in April was sure he was making the right decision when he verbally committed to Washington State. After his official visit to Pullman during Upland's bye week this past weekend he knows it was right.

“It was awesome. It confirmed everything and more for me. I loved the atmosphere, the coaches and the players. I can't wait to be a part of the program,” said Tyler Hilinski, who reiterated his plans to graduate early so he can enroll at WSU in January.

With the formality of an official visit in the books, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound signal caller can focus on the stretch run as his team starts Baseline League play this week against one of the other top contenders in Chino Hills.

Hilinski is coming off a stellar junior season, but work remains.

"You're always working on your craft," he said. "I'm always doing things to get better. It's not a matter of being good enough to do well here. It's about being able to compete at the next level as well."

Hilinski said he spent considerable time in strength and conditioning during the offseason. He also watched a lot of film, trying to break down his mechanics with his coaches to see where he needed to get better.

It has shown this season. The first two weeks were smooth sailing, with Upland winning both by a combined 114-0. Then the competition got tough. The Highlanders just finished a 1-2 stretch against top-notch non-league foes. They lost by identical scores of 28-14 to Tesoro and Mater Dei, now the No. 2 ranked team nationally by MaxPreps.

The most recent win came against a St. Bonaventure team quarterback by USC recruit Ricky Town. Hilinski threw for 213 yards in that head-to-head matchup won by Upland, 25-21.

On the season he has thrown for 1,052 yards with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions.

"We have really been working on his footwork in the pocket and being able to throw on the run," said Mike Esquivel, who has worked with Hilinski since he was in the seventh grade and also trained a couple of other Upland products in Josh Nunes (Stanford) and Nate Romine (Air Force).

"We're also working on rotating the hips and follow through with the motion because it will generate more velocity."

Upland head coach Tim Salter says his signal caller has improved in all facets of the game.

"He has gotten bigger and stronger and he has more velocity on the ball," said Salter, two decades at the helm of the program. "He has better command of the offense. He has all the intangibles too. He's a leader and he is a very tough kid. We need to do a little better job protecting him."

Hilinski made his verbal commitment early after enjoying an unofficial visit and making a connection with Mike Leach. He was hoping making the decision early would get rid of the distractions that can come in the recruiting process.

That turned out to be exactly the case.

"I found the school I wanted to play for and the coach I wanted to play for," he said. "There wasn't a reason to drag it out any longer. Making that decision has really helped me just focus on this season and getting better."


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