Hill Set to Take Care of Business in Second Playing Season

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Defensive tackle Derrick Hill was one of the more heavily pursued recruits when he entered the Cal campus in 2006. Today he's pursuing goals of his own.

The redshirt sophomore says he's having a much more productive camp compared to last year, but there's more to worry about. For one, the Bears' defense is set for a switch to the 3-4, which will present its share of curveballs, and the move also doubles the competition in his position.

Despite all that, Hill is keeping it simple.

"I want to do twice as good as I did last year," he said following Tuesday's practice. "I would love to get another pick, but one of the main things I really want, though, I'd trade the pick in any day for a couple more sacks."

In a 3-4? First of all, forget the pick. He'll have his hands full with multiple linemen every down. A sack or two for the season sounds reasonable for a nose tackle, but a few more than what he already expects to get?

Sounds like the typical preseason talk, peppered with innocuous predictions and brimming with unmitigated hope -- until Hill breaks it down.

"You would assume if it's three people (on the defense's side), and there's always at least five on the (offensive) line, somebody would get doubled teamed on a regular basis," Hill said. "But for some reason, it's not. You have to focus all your linemen on different people because you don't know who or what's coming."

At 6-foot-2 and 298 pounds, Hill certainly looks the part in packages with four down linemen, but many 3-4 tackles could easily belong on the other side of the line of scrimmage given an inch or two of height.

According to Hill, though, the coaches haven't exactly given his unit a guilt-free pass to gluttony.

"They want us to gain a little more weight, but at the same time, they don't want you to gain the weight," Hill said. "They don't want you to lose a step or anything like that, or get too big for your own good. Playing the nose, you don't have to necessarily be the biggest. You can beat 'em with speed and finesse."

Being in his third season (including his redshirt year) with the Bears, the nose isn't the only new role for Hill. The returning veterans of the defensive line have been also offering their tutelage to the teething cubs within the unit.

Rulon Davis has been assigned to Trevor Guyton, Tyson Alualu to Aaron Tipoti and Hill to Kendrick Payne -- according to Hill, the incumbents do anything from visiting the newcomers' dorms to teaching the youngsters how to steer their emotions in practice.

"Payne, that's my boy," Hill said. "We always sit around, and we give all the freshmen to one of the other players That's your little brother, that's your son. Whenever it's time to help them out or give them that mentor-kind of feedback, we always do for them.

"When I came in I had (Seattle Seahawks tackle Brandon) Mebane and (Matthew) Malele, and we all had people that were there for us like that, so it's just like a tradition going on now."

But as much as Hill is enjoying his shifting roles on and off the field, he's also approaching the game much more like a business. Given the circumstances, there doesn't seem any other way.

Senior Mika Kane headlines the depth chart at tackle, with Hill in a close second. Payne has impressed the coaching staff since he joined the team early in the spring, and Guyton is a four-star recruit who flashed some of his raw potential in Tuesday's 11-on-11 drills by stuffing fellow freshman Covaughn DeBoskie in the trenches for zero gain.

"It's a lot of competition right now 'cause we all know all it takes is that one slip from anybody, and they move right down on the depth chart," Hill said. "One thing me and my father always talk about is not being content with where you're at in life and especially in football Right now I'm not at my full potential, nor am I at half, so if I get content with this, I will never develop as a player."


Contact Andrew Kim at [email protected]

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