With that in mind, the Lions coach decided to play the Maryland commitment sparingly on offense and not at all on special teams, which would theoretically preserve Hill’s health and allow him to focus his attention entirely on defense.
Vasilchek’s strategy in using Hill lasted up until Luella’s season finale against Newton.
“We didn’t move the ball all game,” Vasilchek said. “[Hill’s] like, ‘Please can I return some kicks?’ It’s one of those things like, ‘Alright, you’ve been bugging us all year.’ The first punt he takes it back 88 yards, breaks five tackles and scores. He just comes [back to the sideline and] it’s like, ‘Man, we’re a bunch of idiots.’”
Hill wasn’t done. Later in the game, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. That score wasn’t enough to give the Lions a victory that day, but it was just another sign – in Vasilchek’s mind – that the Terps got a steal in Hill.
“The fourth-quarter kickoff [return was] amazing,” Vasilchek said. “He just made big plays all year, just like last year. He’s going to be really good for Maryland.”
Hill was an under-the-radar prospect when he committed to Maryland in June, and he still hasn’t been evaluated by Rivals.com. Vasilchek said Hill was overshadowed by four future Luella Division I defensive backs, including his brother, Detrick Bonner (Virginia Tech), and Rod Sweeting (Georgia Tech).
But Hill’s junior and senior seasons put him on the map for Georgia football followers. Hill was a preseason all-state selection and lived up to the hype this fall, finishing the year with 45 tackles (20 solo), 11 pass breakups, four interceptions (including one returned for a 70-yard touchdown), 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. On special teams, Hill recorded four kickoff returns for 116 yards and one touchdown, and three punt returns for 134 yards and one score.
“He’s not under the radar now,” Vasilchek said. “A lot of bigger schools came and asked about him. But he’s pretty darned committed to what he said originally – ‘Whatever school gives me the first shot is where I’m going to go.’ It’s been Maryland. He’s been fully committed, and it’s a nice relationship. The guys recruiting him from the Maryland football program do a really good job of keeping us [informed]. They’re being really professional, out of all the coaches we deal with. I think they’re going to be really successful. I think he’s going to do really well with Maryland football in the next few years.”
Vasilchek said Hill, whose primary recruiter was offensive line coach Tom Brattan, is the “best DB [Luella has] ever had.” In a 20-13 win over Langston Hughes, Hill chased down a player who broke free and brought him down at the 1. The Lions then stopped Hughes at the goal line to preserve the win. Hill’s hustle play, Vasilchek said, proved to be the difference in the game. That moment was just one example of Hill’s penchant for making big defensive plays.
“As a corner, he’s very aggressive,” Vasilchek said. “He really likes to play man-to-man and likes to jam. When you’re playing man to man, a lot of guys have a hard time getting off the line of scrimmage. He’s pretty nasty in man. He’s a good zone player. He’s really good at baiting, underneath in the passing game, letting quarterbacks think a receiver is open and then closing and picking off the pass.”
Come February, Hill will become the first player during Vasilchek’s tenure as Luella’s head coach to sign a Division I letter of intent. Seeing the future Terp develop over the past four years has been a pleasure for the coach, who started at Luella as an assistant in 2006. Vasilchek’s convinced that Hill’s competitiveness will ensure that he has success at Maryland.
“He’s the best competitor I’ve ever coached,” Vasilchek said. “We’ll play Rock Paper Scissors and he’s going to come after you. He’s the most competitive kid I’ve coached, college and high school. That’s what I remember about him the most. He really loves to compete. He loves football. He’s kind of a football nerd. He really doesn’t do anything else. All he does is play football, and then he goes home and watches football or does football drills and competes.
“His older brother is at Virginia Tech, and he wants to be better than him. It’s a sibling rivalry. The Terrapins are really getting an excellent football player. I know they’ve been coming by every week or every other week, making sure everything is still good. I think they realize he’s going to be a difference-maker for them.”