LOS ANGELES -- It's exceedingly rare for a football program to bring a player who didn't take a snap the prior season to its conference's media days, so it speaks to how valuable wide receiver Austin Hill is to Arizona that he was one of the picks to represent the Wildcats at the Pac-12's annual gala in Hollywood.
Hill missed all of the 2013 season after suffering an ACL injury in spring practice nearly 18 months ago, but the former All-Pac-12 second-team selection appears to be fully healthy and ready to showcase what he can do with the ball in his hands for NFL teams.
"I wouldn't say this year is an audition, but I know I have to show the NFL teams what I'm capable of doing and what I did before I got hurt," Hill said on Wednesday. "The injury didn't bother me, it actually made me better. I know what I have to do."
In addition to rehabbing his injured knee during last season and into the offseason, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder used the down time to focus on the little things it takes to be a top-flight receiver and develop into a first- or second-day pick. If he wasn't in the trainer's room, Hill was in the football building watching film of both himself and the team everyday trying to get better.
That could be a scary thing for Pac-12 opponents and an eye-opener for NFL scouts. Two seasons ago, Hill dueled with second-round pick Marqise Lee in a big Wildcats upset win in which he burst onto the national scene. When the Wildcats begin fall camp in a few weeks, the wideout expects many more of those type of performances with little concern for his injured knee.
"I've been working out and running routes without my brace. I've been doing a lot of agility circuits and sprints without the brace on," he said. "I think my confidence is back. I don't even think about my knee anymore when running routes. Now it's down to getting hit and being comfortable getting hit and not cringing."
The presence of Hill will help Rodriguez transition to yet another new quarterback during the coach's time in Tucson. Add in Texas transfer Cayleb Jones, returnees like Trey Griffey and a number of others, and Arizona could be a team to watch in the tough Pac-12 South thanks to its extensive collection of pass-catchers.