Mistake-prone former third-round draft pick Ronnie Hillman closed out last season fourth on the depth chart, failing to see the field in any of the Denver Broncos' postseason games.
While C.J. Anderson garnered fantasy football "sleeper" acclaim throughout the offseason, Hillman was slowly climbing his way out of the coaching staff's doghouse.
After impressive practice showings in May and June, Hillman entered training camp as the "second running back up" behind presumed breakout starMontee Ball in the backfield pecking order.
"I love what Ronnie has done," running backs coach Eric Studesville said this week, via ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold. "From when we started this spring in April forward, he has been unbelievable. He's a completely different guy in the best possible way and I'm just excited about what he's doing, how he's approaching it, how he's making plays on the field.
"It's been great. It's been there the whole time, but we're finally seeing the maximum side of it. ... I didn't do a good job of bringing it out, but now we are, he's bringing it out."
On one hand, the early-camp praise showered upon Hillman has been a constant in Denver the past three years. On the other hand, Hillman has always possessed the talent to contribute in a major way as a high-octane change-of-pace back once he masters the mental side of playing in the NFL.
Still just 22 years old, Hillman is now the clear favorite to enter the season as the lightning to Ball's thunder.
"Give a lot of credit to him," Studesville emphasized. "Sitting back and looking at two years in the NFL, a talented guy who should be here, who's demonstrated he's got the ability to be here and wasn't playing for whatever reason. And he found a way to turn that around and turn our eyes around ... and we love what we're seeing."
The latest Around The League Podcast talks about the good and bad out of Cowboys camp, then plays the "What's More Likely?" game.