Sophomore returns to starting role, gets in groove
From a judge’s ruling that spared him jail time, to a one-game suspension, to rebuilding trust with coach Les Miles and finally into the end zone.
That’s the journey LSU sophomore Jeremy Hill has endured already this season, ending with his latest theatrics during Saturday night’s 45-13 rout of Kent State.
Hill earned his first extensive playing time of this season, showcasing some of the vision, the moves, the speed he was noted for before off-the-field troubles threatened to tarnish his still-young legacy.
His 58-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter was the longest of his college career. On the play, Hill burst through the middle of the Kent State defense, unopposed to the end zone, as if the defense was in a daze.
“He looked dominant tonight,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Jeremy from last year.”
Later in the first quarter, Hill danced his way back to the end zone, sprinting through the middle of the defense again, this time from 12 yards.
Hill, who said he learned he would start minutes before kickoff, finished with 11 carries for 117 yards and two TDs. The game marked the fifth 100-yard game of his career.
Still, he didn’t feel sharp early Saturday. Hill said he missed several cuts, the type he rarely missed during his fantastic freshman campaign.
“He’s not quite there,” Miles said.
Hill said he is not concerned with those that question his opportunity to return to LSU. His focus is school and football, which will allow him to continue to improve his relationship with Miles.
“I think it’s an everyday thing,”Hill said. “Just one day at a time. Making the right choices is an everyday thing for me. I just need to continue to do that.
“(Miles) expects so much out of all the players. I made bad decisions, so, I think I suffered the consequences that need to be suffered, and I’m ready to move forward.”
It was apparent that Miles planned to work Hill back into the offense against Kent State (1-2), which allowed 307 rushing yards. It was just as apparent that Hill, who prepped at Redemptorist High, had to work his way back up the depth chart.
On Aug. 5, a judge opted not to send Hill to jail for violating his probation due to his April 29 arrest for punching a man outside of a Baton Rouge bar. In July, he pled guilty to misdemeanor simple battery. The incident went viral when video from a mobile phone surfaced showing Hill punching the victim before a co-defendant threw another punch that knocked him unconscious.
Hill was already on probation after pleading guilty to carnal knowledge of a juvenile while a high school student.
After Hill’s probation was tightened, Miles reinstated him in time for the start of preseason camp. Still, Hill had been suspended from all team activities dating back to his April arrest.
Hill was suspended for LSU’s season-opening win against then-No. 20 TCU. Last week, he rushed just six times for 50 yards and a score against UAB, entering the game as LSU’s fifth running back to touch the ball.
Not so on Saturday night.
He rushed for 1- and 2-yard gains on LSU’s first two plays from scrimmage. Then after two Mettenberger completions, Hill sprinted through the defense.
Hill’s improved status reshuffles the backfield duties. Kenny Hillard finished with four carries for 12 yards. And Terrence Magee and Alfred Blue, last week’s leading rushers, didn’t attempt a carry until the third.
Tougher defenses are ahead for LSU (3-0), which hosts Auburn on Saturday in its Southeastern Conference opener before traveling the following week to Georgia. And Miles wants the Tigers, as well as Hill, to be ready.
“I was really rusty,” Hill said. “I had to get used to it. As the game went on, though, I started to get my groove, and it felt kind of normal. Hopefully next week, I can pick up where I left off.”