FALL CAMP DAY 11: Hill leads charge

PULLMAN -- It was a very casual, yet crisp Wednesday afternoon practice following last night's scrimmage. Husain Abdullah looked sharp in the secondary during a session that lasted less than two hours, while Jason Hill had a couple of textbook catches. For Hill, being on the receiving end of 12 touchdowns in a 2004 offense that only produced 20 receiving scores, has resulted in the junior taking on the rolls of big-play receiver --- and leader.

Husain Abdullah made a couple nice plays Wednesday afternoon. The safety had one interception and nearly grabbed another after it was tipped into the air.

Coach Bill Doba declined to comment on what was found in film of Tuesday's scrimmage. The reason? Doba hadn't looked at it yet. He said he wanted to be sure of what he was saying before he provided any analysis of the second fall scrimmage.

Doba did, however, say that he was pleased with his team's Wednesday effort.

"These are the dog days, now," Doba said. "This is when the good guys, the cream comes to the top."

Senior defensive end Adam West returned to drills Wednesday. He had been out since Friday evening due to a concussion he suffered after taking a knee to the head.

Jason Hill made a pair of nice catches, the kind of receptions that have become expected of the record setting receiver.

BEING TAGGED "The Guy" by opposing defensive backfields has changed Hill's outlook slightly this year.

"I'm hungry now," he said, "I want the ball."

But Hill's teammates know him has as much as a leader as a playmaker.

"From day one (when) I stepped on campus, he's helped me day by day," said true freshman receiver Brandon Gibson. "Things I need to do better, making a better plant, getting in and out of my breaks."

Hill's accepted the leadership role, especially when it comes with the knowledge that speeding up the learning curve of young players is crucial to improvement.

"I try to tell them something everyday," he said of his instructions to the young pass-catchers he leads. "I learn things from them, there are things Brandon does that I can't quite do. We learn from each other."

Hill enjoyed a rapid rise last season. During the 2003 season he was one of the last receivers on coaches' depth chart as the squad was led dominantly by upperclassmen, although his athleticism was more than apparent on special teams.

But when all those seniors graduated – and junior Davard Darling left early for the NFL – Hill was suddenly at the top of a very short list of receivers at WSU.

IN HIS FIRST SEASON getting any playing time at the position, he capped a 1,000 yard, 12-touchdown statistic line by being named the team's offensive MVP and a second-team All-Pac-10 performer. His 12-score season sits atop the Cougar record book for most single-season touchdown receptions.

"He's a primetime player, he makes plays," said Gibson, calling Hill's play "amazing".

Conventional wisdom might say a blow-up season like Hill's 2004 campaign would cause a swollen ego and shrinking willingness to help. Not so, according to Gibson.

Gibson is not the only wideout who can benefit from a strong leadership role in the receiving corps. Though Michael Bumpus earned marked recognition in his first season, it can escape notice he's only a true sophomore, and the opportunity remains to polish his skills set as a receiver.

Benny Ward, another touted freshman, is also in position to learn from Hill's game.

"Benny's been making a lot of plays, same thing with Brandon," Hill said, who spent considerable time this summer in the film room pouring over tape with Josh Swogger. "They're playing well, coming on strong. They remind me of myself, my freshman year, just out there making plays, leaving it all on the field."

Gibson knows he has a lot of room for improvement, despite the numerous heads he has turned this fall. He said Hill can help him do just that.

"I try to learn from him, watch him run his routes," Gibson said of Hill. "I've got a lot of learning to do, I'm real young, but I think I'm coming along pretty good."

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