COLLEGE PARK -- There were two times last week when Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown dropped back, saw wide receiver Taivon Jacobs in one-on-one coverage and decided to take a shot down the middle of the field to the Terps' fastest player.
Junior cornerback Alvin Hill was covering Jacobs on both plays. And in both situations, Hill kept up with Jacobs, tracked the ball once Brown let it go and intercepted it when it arrived.
Hill started just two games during his first two years at Maryland and only became a contributor last season after the Terps' top two cornerbacks were injured. However, Hill began preseason practice listed as a co-starter at the cornerback spot opposite Will Likely and has impressed teammates and coaches with his play since preseason camp began two weeks ago.
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“He’s made a big jump since last year, and it has been pleasing,” coach Randy Edsall said of the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Hill. “He’s long. He plays long. ... He’s smart. I just like the development.”
The ball skills have stuck out. Hill had the two interceptions last week and had a pass deflection on a pass intended for wide receiver Levern Jacobs.
“Alvin can do it all,” Likely said. “He’s long. He’s quick. He can trace the ball down fast, and he’s got good ball skills.”
But Hill also mostly has avoided sticking out for the wrong reasons.
Likely has been beaten for some big plays during camp. So has senior cornerback Jeremiah Johnson. However, Hill has not had many (if any) noticeably bad moments.
That is not to say he hasn’t had mistakes or bad plays during camp, but he has primarily stood out for the big plays he has made in coverage or the job he has done against receivers like Jacobs and Stefon Diggs during one-on-one drills between wide-outs and cornerbacks.
“I feel more confident,” said Hill, who had 10 interceptions during his final two high seasons at Luella High School in Georgia. “I have a better understanding of what I do well, so I’m kind of more in-tune with myself. The years before, you don’t have a complete understanding, but the more you just keep running, keep working and keep repping ... the reps really let you understand what you do better.”
Hill has been competing with Johnson for the starting cornerback spot opposite Likely.
Edsall has not given any indication which player is in the lead for the job. But at worst, Hill will be the No. 3 cornerback behind Likely and Johnson and still would play a significant role because Maryland will often have three or more cornerbacks on the field.
Hill had 24 tackles and two pass deflections while serving largely as the Terps’ third cornerback last season.
“Alvin’s a sleeper,” Likely said. “Alvin’s been on point [in the past]. People just haven’t noticed him.”