LSU running back Jeremy Hill didn't make a start until the Tigers' third game but wasted little time re-establishing himself as the team's top rusher. But how much Hill has learned from his two arrests, which resulted in what was widely considered to be weak discipline from LSU coach Les Miles, might eventually be the greater question in the minds of NFL personnel execs.
According to Miles, the experience has matured his star sophomore.
"He's doing the things off the field that he should be doing," Miles said during a Southeastern Conference media teleconference. "We're really pleased with his development. ... I think it's always been important to him, but I think it's more important to him now. I think he realizes those opportunities to step on the field and play in Tiger Stadium, he recognizes has being very, very special."
Hill was charged with battery after sucker-punching a bar patron from behind in July. He learned from a Baton Rouge judge in an August hearing that his probation violation would result in more restrictive probation rather than jail time, paving the way for Hill's immediate and controversial reinstatement to the team. Miles was criticized in some media circles for not suspending Hill for a more extended time.
Hill has been the top rusher in the SEC West, and second in the entire league, with 715 yards on only 98 carries, even though Miles held him out of LSU's first game and for part of its second. His nine touchdowns is tied for the league lead, and against Ole Miss Saturday, he should easily surpass his freshman yardage total from a season ago -- with half a season left to play.
"Strong, fast, talented back, who runs with vision," Miles said. "Very smart in the backfield, knows how to protect, has good ball skills, can catch it out of the backfield. I think he brings a lot. He's working hard in practice, preparing."
As a third-year sophomore, Hill would be eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft if he chose to enter the pro ranks early, although draft declarations by third-year sophomores are uncommon. If he were to come out, his checkered track record off the field would be a major topic in his draft preparation and evaluation. It will be a question he'll eventually be forced answer to, whenever the time may come.
As games pass, however, when it comes to Hill's pro potential from a pure talent standpoint, it's looking more like there's no question at all.