When he walks in the room, his smile is infectious.
When he walks on the field, his play is ferocious.
Unfortunately for Zi’Yon Hill, getting on the field hasn’t been as easy as lacing up his cleats. The redshirt sophomore has been hampered with injuries his entire time as a Ragin’ Cajun.
It all makes perfect sense, especially if you’re used to coach-speak.
The potential for greatness is there. After playing in just three games as a true freshman in 2017, Hill had 44 tackles in 2018 with one sack. But a shoulder injury currently has him on a modified practice schedule heading into the spring — meaning no contact.
“I am limited on some of the stuff,” Hill said, “but I get a lot of good reps that don’t involve too much contact and it’s getting me prepared for the season.”
Hill, who was All-Acadiana Defensive MVP as a senior at Catholic-New Iberia, has Cajuns coach Billy Napier salivating at what he could do when fully healthy. That doesn't mean, however, that Napier will quickly rush him back.
Going into his second season as UL’s football coach, Billy Napier still isn’t completely satisfied with his roster.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Napier said. “We can’t control that he got injured, but we can control how he rehabs. We have a plan to keep him engaged and keep him on schedule. We want to see him make progress, and that’s what we are going to do.”
Napier gave no timetable for Hill being at full strength. He did, however, point to a chance for other players on the defensive line to step up and get valuable reps while Hill is sidelined.
“It's an opportunity for other players to get significant time,” Napier said. “It’s a chance for them to develop and get in position to where they can help our team. So that's the kind of the way I look at it.
“Now would I love to have a healthy Zi’Yon Hill, absolutely. But we know he can play. We just have to get him healthy and focus on the things that we can control.”
Hill agreed with Napier. He said he is watching his other teammates at practice and said he is vocal when he needs to be.
“We still have other people to come in and play my position,” Hill said. “I don’t just sit back and not say anything. I’ll be a voice out there. I help coach out during drills, and I let them see things from my perspective.”
With this being the second year under Napier, Hill said the team knows the expectations going into spring practice. He said the knowledge of those expectations and not being surprised by anything should give the Cajuns a much needed edge for the 2019 season.
UL quarterback Levi Lewis has big plans for his junior season.
“We’re all adjusted to the schedule and how things work,” Hill said. “Coach Napier expects a lot more out of us. We should attack this spring with a running head start.”