FOOTBALL: Hill feels his confidence surging

FOOTBALL: Hill feels his confidence surging

Of all the seniors on the University of Florida football team, perhaps none of them feel the heat quite like Reynaldo Hill feels it these days.

It's not about trying to keep the pressure off Coach Ron Zook who has been catching the flack lately for two losses and an off field incident, although Hill will tell you he feels for Zook and wants to do everything he can for his coach. What has Reynaldo Hill feeling the heat is the fact that six games are gone and there are only five or six games remaining in his college football career.

He came to UF as a highly touted corner from the junior college ranks, but the Fort Lauderdale native spent last year waiting his turn as seniors Keiwan Ratliff and Johnny Lamar got almost all the snaps. Midway through this, his final season, he is only now starting to feel confident and comfortable on the field.

"In the beginning of this season, I just hadn't played enough," said Hill. "There's no substitute for playing experience, especially at this level. In the beginning of the season, I was out there playing as hard as I could play, but I didn't have the confidence that you need from a cornerback to play in the SEC.

"I just had to go out there, play hard and get my game experience, but now that I've been through six games, I feel much more confident. I feel like I've been able to improve in every aspect of my game. I feel like I can get the job done and I'm confident that I can cover anyone."

In the first few games, Hill said he was far too worried about giving up the big play, and because of that concern, he gave receivers far too great a cushion.

"In the beginning of the season, I was very worried about giving up the big play, but once I got used to it, getting out there to play, the crowd and all the excitement, I got used to things and started doing better.

"Early in the season I let it mess with my head, but I'm comfortable now. I don't have to think about it anymore. When I was thinking about things too much, I was too worried about letting a big play go over my head instead of just concentrating on shutting my man down. I just concentrate now on taking it one play at a time."

He's also learned that cornerbacks in the Southeastern Conference need to be able to hit the erase button in their memories. Dwelling on what happened the play before can be a fatal mistake.

"If you're a corner, you have to have a short memory," he said. "If you're worried about what happened the play before, you're setting yourself up to make a big mistake. You can only think about this play right now and when it's over, you forget the last play. You have to know that if you think you're going to get beat, you probably will."

Hill was tremendously impressed with freshman Kyle Jackson who got his first start in the secondary last week against Middle Tennessee State in place of Jarvis Herring, who was suspended for one game.

"Being a freshman, to come out there and play with and against people who have played for three or four years is something," said Hill. "For Kyle to play like he did was impressive. We were all very happy for him."

Hill knows that he's got to play his best the final games of the season. For certain, he wants to win the last five games, knowing what it will do for embattled Coach Ron Zook, but equally as important is the fact that his college football career is about to be over.

"It's gone by so much faster than I thought it would," he said. "I haven't done all that I wanted to do or hoped to do, but the good thing is I have a few games left to do my best, play my hardest and help the team. Hopefully, I'll do some good things and that will help us win out the rest of our games. And if I can play well and help us win, that will help me leave here with no regrets."

As one of the Gator seniors, he's helped to rally the team around Zook. Just as the seniors rallied the team together last year when the Gators were 3-3 after a loss to Ole Miss, this year's group of seniors have brought the team together to do their best for the coach.

"Coach Zook is a good coach and he should be here," said Hill. "He's done his job, but we lost a couple of games that we shouldn't have lost because we didn't make some plays. That's on us, not the coaches.

"The seniors got together and talked to the team about getting it together, playing it as one. We have the ability to run the table if we just concentrate on each game and each play. We want to do it for Coach Zook. We want to do it for ourselves."

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