Naz Hill Confident He Can Make Immediate Impact in Pokes’ Secondary
LARAMIE -- First came the speed off the line. That was followed with what appeared to be an inside route.
But it was too late.
Devin Boddie Jr. planted his right foot in the turf inside War Memorial Stadium and bolted to his left. It happened in the blink of an eye. Wyoming's newest wide receiver was all alone. The catch, uncontested.
It was off to the races.
That is a small glimpse into life as a freshman cornerback. Naz Hill was on the wrong end of the play. His first welcome-to-college-football moment was out of the way early. It came during the Cowboys first official practice of the 2023 season.
"I have to turn my hips quicker," said Hill, coupled with a slight head shake. "He's definitely a good receiver. He's shifty and crafty. He has a couple moves he can bring out of his bag. He's definitely quick out of his cut."
Boddie played in the SEC the previous three seasons, suiting up at Vanderbilt. Hill was a senior at Kankakee High School in rural Illinois where he became a three-star prospect and an All-State defensive back.
"I adjusted to him the next time I stepped up and guarded him," Hill added, sporting a grin. "I just have to be patient with him because he will definitely sneak up with a double move."
It's all part of the learning process, kid.
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Hill, a self-proclaimed jokester, said altitude has been his biggest obstacle since arriving on campus in early June. He has the gushing nose bleeds to prove it. You'd think his head would be spinning after wrapping up his first collegiate practice, but that's not the case.
Preparation for this moment has been in the works for months.
Hill, who was also recruited by Kansas, UConn, Akron, Miami (Ohio) and Northern Illinois, said immediately after he committed to Craig Bohl's Cowboys he buried himself in the playbook. That's not all. He watched film. Lots and lots of film. He studied teammates Jakorey Hawkins, Deron Harrell and Kolbey Taylor, along with the rest of the secondary.
"It was a lot of missed tackles and alignments, stuff like that," Hill said. "So, I peeked that. I see the difference between that defense and this defense this year."
Those study habits were perfected in high school.
"That's the key," he added. "If you don't know what you're doing on the field, you don't belong on the field. That's why I study the playbook really well so I already know what I'm doing when I get on the field."
Still, realities like the one dished out by Boddie will happen. Hill knows that. So does his position coach Benny Boyd. All the qualities are there, Boyd said, but experience is one area that is currently under construction.
"He's a good young man. He's got a long way to go on the field, but it's to be expected with freshmen," he said. "He is very mentally tough and comes from a really good family background. There's just a toughness and a blue-collar mentality that he definitely exhibits. I like having him around. I like the fact that I can coach him very hard and he doesn't cower. He doesn't get in his feelings. He looks me in the eyes and says 'Yes, sir' and he tries to go about the business of correcting whatever mistakes he made."
Boyd recalls that dusting Hill received on Day 1, too.
"When you're in high school, you're good enough to stare in the backfield and you can still make plays," he added along with a grin. "Here, that will get you beat. So, he's figuring it out."
Bohl said he is in search of a fourth cornerback this fall. Tyrecus Davis, Taylor and Hawkins figure to be the frontrunners. Harrell is still recovering from a significant hip surgery in the offseason and his return is unknown.
Could Hill be that guy?
Bohl, who has typically thrown out a few potential impact freshmen during previous fall camp, isn't biting this time around. He does like what he sees so far from Hill, though.
"I mean, he's grown," Wyoming's 10th-year head coach said. "He's gotten taller since I was in his home. He's 6-foot-3 and a half now. He grew an inch. So, I'll watch the tape, but I like 6-foot-3 and a half corners, I know that."
Confidence isn't an issue with Hill. He is in hopes he will see the field sooner rather than later.
"I definitely can make an impact," he said. "I can be there on the ball, I have good footwork, I can change, make adjustments and back peddle. I'm getting better day by day with everything here."
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