One of the most vital members of the Maryland football team’s secondary scanned the near-empty practice and tried to demonstrate his attention to detail, the characteristic outside football he feels most confident about.
“Let’s say this girl,” Alvin Hill said, pointing across the way. “She looks like she’s focusing on something. She’s not here. Football’s not on her mind right now. Or these two guys. I don’t think they’ve met before. But they’ve become more acquainted with each other.”
An off-the-field introvert by nature, Hill has spent the spring trying to emerge from his shell and convert this attention to detail into production, at least from a leadership perspective. Last season, injuries to starters Dexter McDougle (fractured shoulder blade) and Jeremiah Johnson (broken toe) forced upheaval at cornerback and thrust Hill into the fire. Suddenly, he was an experienced veteran, working alongside then-senior Isaac Goins and freshman Will Likely.
This spring, little has changed, except Hill’s demeanor. At first, he worried about being under-prepared, which translated into playing tense during games.
“But when I got in my comfort zone,” he said, “I was pretty good.”
Entering Friday’s spring game, Hill has worked mostly with the first-stringers, with the expectation that once Johnson returns from a hamstring issue, Hill will slide into a No. 3 cornerback role.
Likely figures to man the field position with Johnson at the boundary, but the graduations of Goins and McDougle have created a depth issue for defensive coordinator Brian Stewart. Behind Likely, Hill and Johnson, only Jarrett Ross made a tackle in a game last season – not counting A.J. Hendy, who ungulates between cornerback and safety – and Ross is currently hurt this spring.
“Good opportunity,” Hill said. “Just trying to take advantage of it. You have to take a lot more responsibility. You’ve got the older guys…you have to become their replacement, the leader. It’s not stressful. You want the pressure. It’s good, I guess.
“With actions, it’s not tough at all. I’ve always led with my actions, worked out extra, stuff like that. Verbally, I have to be more comfortable. I’m just getting to a comfort point. Guys accept me.”
A native Floridian who moved to Georgia when he was 14 years old, Hill appeared in 12 games last season as a sophomore. He made 24 tackles and broke up two passes, a jump from his true freshman season, when he played in six games on special teams. Over spring break, he plans to visit fellow cornerbacks Likely and Undray Clark in Florida. Maybe they will hit the beach. Maybe Likely will take Hill chasing rabbits, the legendary pursuit of youngsters in his area. But first, there is work to be done, opportunities to seize.
“I’m happy that the time came,” Hill said.